MULTAN, Pakistan » The brother of slain Pakistani model Qandeel Baloch on Sunday confessed to strangling her for “family honor” because she posted “shameful” pictures on Facebook.
Baloch, who had become a social media celebrity in recent months, stirred controversy by posting pictures online taken with a prominent Muslim cleric. She was found dead on Saturday at her family home in the central city of Multan.
Police arrested her brother, Waseem Azeem, and presented him before the media in Multan, where he confessed to killing her. He said people had taunted him over the photos and that he found the social embarrassment unbearable.
“I was determined either to kill myself or kill her,” Azeem told The Associated Press as he was being led away.
He said that even though Baloch was the main breadwinner for the family, he slipped her sedatives the night before and then strangled her in her sleep.
“Money matters, but family honor is more important,” said Azeem.
Nearly 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan each year for violating conservative norms on love, marriage and public behavior. The so-called “honor killings” are often carried out by family members.
Such killings are considered murder. But Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim’s family to pardon the killer, which often allows those convicted of honor killings to escape punishment.
Regional police chief Sultan Taimuri said authorities will seek the maximum punishment for Azeem, without providing further details.
Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was buried Sunday.
She had shot to fame and notoriety through social media postings that would be considered tame by Western standards but were seen as scandalous by many in deeply conservative Pakistan.
video of her dancing to a popular rap song was widely circulated, and at the time of her death she had 40,000 followers on Twitter and 700,000 on Facebook. In postings and public comments, she presented herself as a symbol of female empowerment
She became embroiled in scandal earlier this month when she posted pictures taken with Mufti Abdul Qavi, a prominent cleric, in a Karachi hotel room during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In one picture, she is wearing the cleric’s trademark fur-lined hat.
Qavi maintained that he only met with her to discuss the teachings of Islam. But the government suspended Qavi and removed him from the official moon-sighting committee that determines when Ramadan starts and ends in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar.
Baloch’s death produced a mixed reaction on the same social media outlets that helped fuel her popularity.
One poster on Twitter wrote: “A girl who decides to publish her naked pics for sake of publicity … what her brother is supposed to do?”
But Alizeh Tahir wrote on Facebook: “I am sad to hear the news of Qandeel Baloch’s murder. What saddens me more is the reaction of my nation. People who celebrate someone’s death are, probably, themselves dead inside.”
The leading daily newspaper Dawn published an editorial expressing the hope that Baloch’s murder would spark a national round of soul-searching and finally lead to the end to Pakistan’s ‘honor killing’ phenomenon. “The death of Qandeel Baloch conveys an insidious message: that women will be kept back at all cost; murdered, if they dare nurture ambitions to break the glass ceiling,” the newspaper stated. “Her murder, therefore, must serve as an impetus for legislators to renew demands for legislation to protect women who are threatened under false notions of ‘honor.’ “