Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari on Saturday said that the state was “reviewing options” in the light of laws and Supreme Court judgements in the murder case of social media star Qandeel Baloch, whose brother was acquitted by the Lahore High Court (LHC) earlier this week.
Before her murder in 2016, Baloch, 26, became famous for her posts that were deemed suggestive and immoral by many in the country.
Her brother Mohammad 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”.
In a tweet today, Bokhari said, “The state is undertaking a review of legal options in the Qandeel Baloch case in light of law & SC judgments.”
Terming “honour killings” a black mark on society, she said the law had been amended to “ensure murderer[s] of women — whether a celebrity or ordinary woman — does not walk free”.
Meanwhile, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has also announced plans to appeal the verdict before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Her brother’s acquittal
Sardar Mahboob, Waseem’s layer, confirmed to Dawn on Monday that his client had been acquitted after serving less than six years in prison.
He 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.
Section 311 is usually invoked after a person has been pardoned by the victim/complainant. Mahboob went on to say that the trial court had convicted Waseem on the basis of his confession. He added that all the prosecution witnesses were police officials which was not admissible under the law.
The case became the most high profile “honour killing” of recent years — where women are dealt lethal punishment by male relatives for purportedly bringing “shame” to the reputation of a family.
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, whether or not a murder is defined as a crime of honour is left to the judge’s discretion, meaning killers can theoretically claim a different motive and still be pardoned.
In Baloch’s case, her parents initially insisted their son would be given no absolution. But they later changed their minds and said they wanted him to be forgiven. But the trial court had disregarded this and went ahead with the sentence. Three months after Baloch’s murder, parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.