Book on Qandeel Baloch reveals how her sexuality both intrigued & disgusted Pakistan

17 June, 2018 4:37 pm IST
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‘The sensational life & death of Qandeel Baloch’ takes readers through the life of the Pakistan diva killed for trying to live on her own terms.

Qandeel Baloch was a fearless diva who spoke her heart out in a conservative society that wasn’t ready for her.

However, after she was murdered by her own brother in the name of honour, Baloch paved the way for even bolder voices in Pakistan, and it is this journey that forms the basis of author Sanam Maher’s fiery book, The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch.

“When I die, yahaan pe koi aur koi Qandeel Baloch nahin aani. Ek sau saal tak Qandeel Baloch paida nahin honi (There will never be another Qandeel Baloch here. For a hundred years, another Qandeel Baloch will not be born). You’re going to miss me,” the former social media star has been quoted as saying in the book. She wasn’t wrong. Maher, through her elaborate research, explains why.

“A Pakistani woman had tried to live life on her own terms and she was brutally murdered by her own brother.” This is the narrative that Pakistani media created after Baloch’s controversial death, according to Maher. However, Baloch was much more than a social media celebrity; she was a woman who generated intrigue, awe and, most often, disgust among the conservative circles, with her unabashed sexuality.

Maher walks the reader through the 15 minutes of fame that Baloch carved out for herself, and how it exposed the hypocrisy of Pakistan’s conservative and patriarchal society – where, on the one hand, Baloch was condemned for her provocative behaviour in public, and, on the other, fetishized by the same people in private interactions.

Maher cites the example of a religious leader who said on national TV that it was because of women like Qandeel Baloch that “girls from good homes will think twice before wanting to become an actress or a singer”.

To this, Qandeel had said, “Jitnay gunday hain aap log, double standard log (You people are hooligans, with a double standard). You like to watch me, and then you like to say, ‘Why don’t you just die?’”

She was right too. In her book, Maher provides an insight into the kinds of responses Baloch received on her live blogs, while some asked her to perform sexual tasks, others asked her to “spend the night” with them. When she told them to behave, they told her that she was shameless.

Six days after Qandeel Baloch’s death, the anti-honour killings bill was fast-tracked in the Pakistan parliament and, in October 2016, a loophole that allowed families to pardon perpetrators of honour killings was closed. Baloch’s death did not go in vain.

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