Multan, Pakistan – A Pakistani court on Friday found the brother of a slain social media model, Qandeel Baloch, guilty of her 2016 murder and sentenced him to life in prison.
Baloch, aged 26, was found strangled in her home near the city of Multan. She was killed shortly after posting racy pictures on Facebook of herself with a Muslim cleric, Mufti Abdul Qawi, who was later arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder.
Baloch’s brother, Mohammed Wasim Azeem, had confessed to her killing. Their father blamed the cleric for instigating the killing, in which Azeem drugged and strangled his sister as their parents slept downstairs.
Friday’s decision by a judge in Multan acquitted four other suspects, including Qawi, whose supporters showered him with rose petals as he left the court. He told reporters he was innocent and said Baloch "should have not been killed. Islam does not allow the killing of any innocent person."
Nearly 1,000 Pakistani women are murdered by close relatives each year in so-called "honor killings" for violating conservative norms on love and marriage.
Born Fauzia Azeem, Baloch changed her name and became a provocative social media star after rising from a poor farming family and escaping an abusive marriage, in which her husband burned and beat her. Shortly after her murder, Muhammed Azeem, her father, was adamant that he had loved his daughters, supported everything Baloch had done and had raised his daughters be independent young women.
Baloch’s mother, Anwar Bibi, cried as she spoke to reporters outside the court after the sentencing.
"Qandeel was helping us financially and she was giving us money to run our kitchen. She used to pay the rent for our house, but with her sudden murder by my son, our one and only source of income also ended," she said.
After nationwide outcry over Baloch’s death, Pakistan’s parliament made legal changes in 2016 giving a mandatory 25-year prison sentence to anyone convicted of a so-called honour killing.