The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday acquitted the brother of social media star Qandeel Baloch after serving less than six years in prison, his lawyer said.
Qandeel Baloch, 26, murdered in the name of “honour” in 2016, became famous for her posts that were deemed “suggestive and immoral by many in the country.”
Her brother Muhammad 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”.
Sardar Mahboob, Waseem’s layer, confirming his acquittal, said that the trial court had “wrongly exercised its power” and sentenced him 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 court order has yet to be made public.
The case became the 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 a legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.