A female police officer has been assigned to investigate the alleged “honor killing” of Pakistani model and social media identity Qandeel Baloch, officials said on Wednesday. Central Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Akram turned the investigation over to Inspector Attiya Jaffari, after two former investigating officers were suspended for negligence.
Jaffari has issued notices to various people, including Mufti Abdul Qavi — the cleric seen in photos Baloch posted to social media — and the victim’s former husband Ashiq Hussain. Baloch’s brother, her younger brother Waseem, is already in custody, accused of strangling her to death.
“We are preparing the case in a way that its trial is concluded within three months,” the CPO said.
After a public outcry over the circumstances of Baloch’s death, officials announced on Monday that the Azeem family would be barred from pardoning her killer — a legal loophole, often deployed in “honor killing” cases, that allows the victim’s family to forgive the killer and set them free. (Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar-winning film A Girl In The River documents one such case.)
Baloch’s murder has provoked a strong reaction on social media from feminists who saw her as a symbol of women’s empowerment. Interviewed by The New York Times, columnist and author Rafia Zakaria spoke about the use of technology as “a new weapon in the hands of Pakistani women.”
As of Wednesday morning, an online petition condemning Baloch’s death — and calling her “a rebel, an artist, and a gusty feminist provocateur” — had been signed by almost 4,000 people.
Born Fauzia Azeem, Baloch was forced into marriage at age 17, and reportedly had a child who lives with her former husband. After a disastrous audition on Pakistan Idol, Baloch turned her energy to building a social media following, posting a mix of raunchy videos and messages about female empowerment.
“Her ‘sin’ was simply being herself — a brave, bold, lusty, thigh-jangling, cricket-loving 26-year-old who had chosen the treacherous terrain of social media to interact with Pakistan’s socially conservative, aspirational middle classes,” wrote Mira Sethi in an Op-Ed for The New York Times, headlined “Strangled for being too sexy.”