Pakistani netizens and celebrities are outraged after news broke of the man who confessed to Qandeel Baloch's murder being set free. Muhammad Waseem said he murdered his sister in the name of 'honour' in 2016, and after serving six years in prison was acquitted by the Lahore High Court on Feb 14. This, compounded with other instances of violence against women in which the perpetrators have still not been convicted, has caused netizens and celebrities such as Meesha Shafi and Osman Khalid Butt to voice their anger online.
Before her death in 2016, Baloch, 26, became famous for her online posts. Waseem was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison by a trial court for strangling her, brazenly telling the press he had no remorse for the slaying because her behaviour was “intolerable”.
Under a recent law change, perpetrators are no longer able to seek forgiveness from the victim's family — sometimes their own family — and to have their sentences commuted. However, Waseem's sentence was pronounced before the change. His lawyer said that the trial court had "wrongly exercised its power" and sentenced Waseem under the Pakistan Penal Code's Section 311, dealing with fasad-fil-arz (mischief on earth), even though he had been pardoned by the deceased's heirs.
News of his acquittal spread online, sending netizens into a rage.
Actor Butt wrote in a tweet, "He is on record admitting to drugging and murdering his sister. Someone please make this make sense to me."
Singer Shafi said, "we’re living in opposite world" to have a murderer roam free among us.
Lawyer and digital rights activist Nighat Dad posted Waseem's confession video and said, "This man who confessed of killing Qandeel, his own sister, is a free man today in the same country where Qandeel couldn’t live her life freely & was honour killed for the choices she made as a free citizen of this country."
Academic Nida Kirmani addressed the amendment that disallows a family's forgiveness to let a perpetrator go free and asked, "How on earth was #QandeelBaloch’s brother acquitted?!"
Model Zara Peerzada reshared Dad's post and criticised the "state machinery" for not working in favour of women.
One user warned other women against reading the news, saying "The kind forgiving treatment being given murderers of Noor Mukkaddam and Qandeel Baloch is alone to depress you."
Users drew depressing parallels between the cases.
This user vowed to march for Qandeel and Noor at this year's Aurat March.
This news, coupled with hundreds of reports of violence against women and the perpetrators being able to walk away free of any consequences, adds to the feeling of helplessness experienced by many women in Pakistan. As people on Twitter pointed out, a public confession of murder did not ensure that Qandeel Baloch's brother was punished fairly, which begs the question of what it does take for women to get justice in this country.
'We're living in opposite world': Celebrities, netizens outraged after Qandeel Baloch's brother acquitted