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baloch: Pakistan High Court acquits social media star Qandeel Baloch’s killer after parents pardon him

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A Pakistani man sentenced to life in 2019 for strangling Qandeel Baloch, his sister and a social media celebrity in a case of honour killing, was acquitted of murder after his parents pardoned him under the country’s Islamic law, a court official said on Monday.

Muhammad Waseem was arrested in 2016 after he confessed to drugging and strangling his sister Fouzia Azeem, better known as Qandeel Baloch, a 26-year-old social media celebrity, for posting objectionable photos on Facebook and “disgracing the family’s honour.”

Waseem, who was the lone accused in this case, was handed life imprisonment by a trial court in 2019, while other suspects including Baloch’s younger brother Aslam Shaheen, her cousin Haq Nawaz and cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi were acquitted citing lack of evidence.

Waseem had later challenged the sentence in the high court.

On Monday, Baloch’s parents pardoned his son in order to seek his acquittal. They (parents) had retracted from their earlier statements against Waseem, in which they told the police that he was involved in their daughter’s murder, a court official said.

“LHC Multan bench Justice Sohail Nasir announced the verdict in light of all 35 prosecution witnesses turning hostile and pardon being given by legal heirs (parents) of Qandeel,” the official said.

“Qandeel brought dishonour to the Baloch name and her family due to her risque videos and statements posted on social media,” Waseem had said in his written statement in 2016.

Cleric Qavi was accused of inciting Waseem to murder his sister after she had made a fun of him on social media.

The slain social media star’s parents had once before also requested the court to wrap up the case, saying they had forgiven both their sons, but their appeal was dismissed with the judge citing the anti-honour killing law.

After the law was passed in October 2016, Baloch’s parents had initially vowed not to forgive the alleged murderers.

Baloch became famous for her bold social media posts, pictures, videos and comments. But these were considered outrageous by the largely conservative Pakistani community.

Every year over 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan in so called ‘honour killings’ committed by their male relatives.

It was Baloch’s murder that restarted the debate in the Muslim country that led to the passing of an amendment to Pakistan’s Penal Code in October 2016, allowing the police to take over from the victim’s family as the main complainant in the case of an honour killing.

The amendment made it impossible for the family to use the country’s laws that allow close relatives of murder victims to pardon the killers.

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