As It Happens

Protests follow death of Pakistani star Qandeel Baloch, killed by her brother

Journalist Bina Shah says protests against the murder of Pakistani internet celebrity Qandeel Baloch are putting pressure on authorities to prosecute so-called 'honour killings.'
After the murder of Pakistani social-media celebrity Qandell Baloch, people are demanding prosecution of so-called "honour killings." (Facebook)
On Monday, dozens of women took to the streets of Islamabad to protest the murder of Qandeel Baloch. 

In this picture taken on June 28, 2016, Pakistani fashion model Qandeel Baloch speaks during a press conference in Lahore, Pakistan. (M. Jameel/Associated Press)

Photos of Qandeel Baloch posing with Mufti Abdul Qavi, a prominent cleric, attracted scrutiny for the religious leader and lead to him being fired from a government position. He is now under investigation in connection with Baloch's murder. (Facebook)

Over the weekend, Baloch was found strangled in her home and now one of her brothers has admitted to the murder, saying he is "proud" of what he did and that "girls are born to stay home."

Pakistani police say Waseem Azeem, the brother of slain Pakistani model Qandeel Baloch, has confessed to strangling her to death for "family honor" because she posted "shameful" pictures on Facebook. (AP Photo/Asim Tanveer) (Asim Tanveer/Associated Press)

Bina Shah is a columnist with Pakistan's Dawn newspaper in Karachi. She spoke with As It Happens guest host Helen Mann about Baloch's fame and how her murder has reignited the debate in Pakistan over the prosecution of so-called "honour killings." Here is part of their conversation.
Helen Mann: Ms. Shah, a lot of people are making a comparison to a Kim Kardashian kind of figure, so we have a kind of sense of who Ms. Baloch was, is that fair or was she about more than that?

Bina Shah is a columnist for Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. (Delphium Books)

Bina Shah: She wasn't anything like Kim Kardashian, in the sense that she was from a very poor, rural area of Pakistan. She was a working class woman. She supported 11 siblings and two aged parents so she was not coming from any kind of position of privilege within Pakistani society. Then, if you look at Pakistani society, which has a very strict role for women, especially in terms of morality and public behaviour, there are no repercussions in the real world for Kim Kardashian if she posts the provocative selfie. In our part of the world, what Qandeel was doing was literally endangering her own life with this kind of attitude and this kind of decision.

HM: And she was clearly aware of that and said that she didn't care what people thought of her...

BS: Yes, well that was sort of the youthful bravado that people found refreshing about her. They found it shocking too because Pakistan is a society where everybody cares what everybody thinks about you and I'm afraid that burden is heavy on girls and women more than it is on boys and men. For her to say, "I don't care," was just something that people hadn't heard before.

HM: There's also this religious leader Abdul Qavi. What is his connection to the story?

BS: Maybe a month ago, Qandeel Baloch asked this Mufti for a meeting in a hotel. It turned out to be kind of a publicity stunt because she took some selfies with him and posted them on her page. That led to him being fired from his government job on part of a religious committee. He got really angry about this and appeared on television making threats against her. 

Nobody from her family had a problem with what she was doing because she maintained anonymity. Qandeel Baloch was a pseudonym, a stage name. When the scandal with this Mufti broke out the mainstream media went and investigated her and found out her real name, aired details of herself, her family. So, I think it just reached a breaking point when the family realized no longer are we unknown.

Pakistani relatives and residents carry the coffin of social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch during her funeral in Shah Sadar Din village, around 130 kilometers from Multan on July 17, 2016. (SS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)

HM: There's mixed reaction to her death with some people saying they were "shocked," many saying "she deserved that." We're also seeing some protests in Islamabad saying that these so-called honour killings have to be addressed, that they have to be made illegal. Do you think there is a growing movement to change or is this just an entrenched thing that's going to take a long time to deal with?


BS: Over the years it has been more common and that's partly because people are reporting the crimes more. That's partly because the media is giving them more attention so we may be seeing sort of artificial boosting of numbers that were already quite high to begin with. There has always been opposition to these crimes but it takes time for traction to build up, it takes time for people to come onto the same page. It's a matter of keeping up the pressure, keeping it in the news, keeping up national and international attention for the problem and maybe we'll see some progress.

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Bina Shah.