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Qandeel Baloch case Pakistan’s acid test for blood money law. Acquittal shows it has failed

Men in Pakistan will tell you how bad Valentine's Day is and how we should observe haya sharam. They will conveniently ignore femicide, said a Pakistani.

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New Delhi: Qandeel Baloch’s murder case became Pakistan’s acid test for its controversial “blood money” or “forgiveness” laws. A high court has now allowed the murderer — her brother Muhammad Waseem—to walk free. Waseem had admitted to killing his 26-year-old sister for posting “shameful” pictures on Facebook in 2016.

Under Pakistan Penal Code’s Section 311, which is based on the Islamic concept of “Qisas” or retributive justice, a murderer who may be punished with a death sentence can be pardoned if he or she provides “Diyat” (blood money), a compensation payable to the victims or their legal heirs.

In a report published in Pakistani daily Dawn, Waseem’s lawyer Sardar Mahboob said: “The trial court had “wrongly exercised its power” and sentenced Waseem 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”.

Qandeel Baloch’s parents had announced a pardon for their son in 2019 but the court went ahead with the sentencing, Dawn report said.

Activists and journalists in Pakistan have denounced the acquittal order and said the case showed “how severely the criminal justice system is broken” in the country.

In an oped article for Dawn titled The ‘honour’ in murder — Pakistani lawyers Sahar Bandial and Nighat Dad wrote, “Qandeel asserted her independence. For that, she was seen as someone who deserved to be killed”. They further elaborated on how things may still go wrong after amendments in the existing laws if the Supreme Court continues to uphold “treating the ‘affront’ to his honour” and “culpable homicide” like it did in a case in 2018.

Pakistani film actor Osman Khalid Butt wrote: “We are in the concluding stages of a high-profile and incredibly brutal murder case even now – how does this ruling inspire any confidence (except to the guilty) in our judicial system?”

Questioning the loopholes in their judicial system that spares these murderers, Butt further said, “This is not the first time sentences for heinous crimes have been reduced or overturned. Why do these loopholes still exist in our judicial system whereby murderers can eventually walk free?”


A Twitter user by the name Yasmine Mohammed pointed out how Islam enables people in Pakistan to commit honour killing: “Islamic law in #Pakistan allows for a man who murdered his sister in an ‘honor killing’ to walk free. Remember this when they tell you honor killings have nothing to do w Islam”.

“The brother who confessed to killing his sister Qandeel Baloch was acquitted today. He was the prime suspect in this case since the murder. Men here will tell you how bad Valentine’s day is and how we should observe haya sharam. They will conveniently ignore femicide in PK”, said another user.

Expressing shock, a user by the name Nighat Dad wrote, “This man who confessed of killing Qandeel, his own sister, is a free man today in the same country where Qandeel couldn’t live her life freely & was honor killed for the choices she made as a free citizen of this country. #qandeelbaloch #honourkilling”.


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