Brother jailed for life for murdering Pakistani social media model Qandeel Baloch

Qandeel Baloch Credit: AP Photo/M. Jameel, File

A Pakistani court has found the brother of a social media model guilty of her murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

Qandeel Baloch, 26, was found strangled at her home near the city of Multan in 2016.

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.

Ms Baloch’s brother, Mohammed Wasim Azeem, confessed to her killing. Their father blamed the cleric for instigating the murder, in which Azeem drugged and strangled his sister as their parents slept downstairs.

Mohammed Wasim Azeem Credit: AP Photo/Asim Tanveer

A judge in Multan acquitted four other suspects, including Mr Qawi, whose supporters showered him with rose petals as he left the court.

He told reporters he was innocent and Ms 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 “honour killings” for violating conservative norms on love and marriage.

Born Fauzia Azeem, Ms 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.

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Shortly after her murder, Muhammed Azeem, her father, was adamant that he had loved his daughters, supported everything she had done and had raised his daughters be independent young women.

Ms 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 her murder, Pakistan’s parliament made legal changes in 2016 giving a mandatory 25-year prison sentence to anyone convicted of a so-called honour killing.