Fouzia Azeem (Urdu: فوزیہ عظیم; 1 March 1990 – 15 July 2016), better known by the name Qandeel Baloch (Urdu: قندیل بلوچ), was a Pakistani model, actress, feminist activist and social media celebrity. Baloch rose to prominence due to her videos on social networks discussing her daily routine and various controversial issues. She was famous for her sensational videos on social media.
Baloch first received recognition from the media in 2013, when she auditioned for Pakistan Idol; her audition went viral and she became an Internet celebrity. She was one of the top 10 most searched for persons on the internet in Pakistan and both celebrated and criticised for the content of her videos and posts.
During the evening of 15 July 2016, Baloch was asphyxiated while she was asleep in the house where her parents live in Multan. Her brother Waseem Azeem confessed to the murder saying she was “bringing disrepute” to the “family’s honour”.
Baloch was born on 1 March 1990 in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab. She hailed from Shah Sadar Din. She had six brothers and six sisters. Her first job was as a bus hostess.
Baloch’s fame was based on her social media posts – pictures, videos and comments. These were considered bold by the largely conservative Pakistani community. Some international news media compared her to Kim Kardashian; however, local commentators stated that she was more significant than Kardashian, as Baloch “went against the norms of society” and lived life on her own terms.
In June 2016, Baloch met senior cleric Mufti Abdul Qawi in a hotel room to learn more about her faith; the interaction between them brought about mayhem on social media platforms as their photos went viral online. She also wore a hat with the Mufti’s signature. The meeting led to the Mufti being suspended from his position on one of Pakistan’s religious committees.
A previous stunt which spread in social media was her promise to strip dance for her nation and to dedicate her dance to cricketer Shahid Afridi if Pakistan won the Twenty20 match against India on 19 March 2016. She released a teaser on social media, which went viral, but Pakistan lost the match. Some Indian media compared her with Poonam Pandey at this point due to her controversial personality.
As her media presence grew, Baloch began to use her position to comment on women’s position in Pakistani society. The week before she died, she released a music video entitled Ban, which mocked the restrictions placed on women in the country. In an interview with controversial anchor Mubashir Luqman, Baloch named Sunny Leone, Rakhi Sawant and Poonam Pandey as her inspirations. She also said that many organizations, people and media groups were calling her to feature in their shows to increase their own ratings.
– Security concerns
Following the June 2016 meeting with Qawi, Baloch reported that she received death threats both from him and from others.
At around the same time, Baloch’s ex-husband described in the media their brief marriage, revealing intimate details of their relationship. Baloch claimed her husband had been abusive, and cried publicly about the pain of the marriage. Around 14 July 2016, Baloch spoke by phone to a reporter from the Express Tribune paper and stated that she feared for her life. She told the reporter that she had sought protection from the police but on receiving no response, had decided to move abroad with her parents after the Eid al-Fitr holiday as she felt unsafe in Pakistan.
Baloch married Ashiq Hussain in 2008, aged 17, and had one son with him. Baloch left her husband a year later, saying he was abusive. There are reports Baloch was separated from a second marriage.
On 15 July 2016, Baloch was drugged and then asphyxiated by her brother Waseem while she was asleep at her parents’ home in Multan. Her death was reported by her father Azeem. It was first reported as a shooting, but an autopsy report confirmed that Baloch was murdered by asphyxiation while she was asleep, on the night of 15–16 July, around 11:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. By the time her body was found she had already been dead for between fifteen and thirty-six hours. Marks on Baloch’s body revealed that her mouth and nose were pinned shut to asphyxiate her. Police called the murder an honour killing.
A First Information Report against her brother Waseem and another brother Aslam Shaheen, who allegedly persuaded Waseem to kill their sister, was issued. Baloch’s father Azeem stated in the FIR that his sons Aslam Shaheen and Waseem were responsible for their sister’s death and had killed her for her money. Her father told the press “my daughter was brave and I will not forget or forgive her brutal murder.”
Waseem was arrested on the evening of 16 July. He confessed to murdering his sister, saying “she (Qandeel Baloch) was bringing disrepute to our family’s honour and I could not tolerate it any further. I killed her around 11:30 p.m. on Friday night when everyone else had gone to bed. My brother is not involved in the murder.”
The state was named as complainant in the murder case, making it impossible for the victim’s family to pardon the perpetrator (see the Pakistani diyaa law).
– Nomination of Mufti Abdul Qavi in model Qandeel Baloch’s murder case
Mufti Abdul Qavi’s name has been nominated in social media activist and model Qandeel Baloch’s murder case. His name has been mentioned in First Information Report (FIR) on application of Qandeel’s father Azeem. He was already being investigated by the Police of Multan.
Baloch’s murder was widely condemned by media celebrities and people around the globe, while some in Pakistan were more inclined to support her murder. Personalities such as Imran Khan, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Sharmila Farooqi,Abdul Razaque,Reham Khan, Sanam Baloch, Osman Khalid Butt, Meesha Shafi, Nadia Hussain, Ali Zafar, along with many others condemned the incident, including filmmaker and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who said, “I really feel that no woman is safe in this country, until we start making examples of people, until we start sending men who kill women to jail, unless we literally say there will be no more killing and those who dare will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.” She further said, “There is not a single day where you don’t pick up a paper and see a woman hasn’t been killed … this is an epidemic.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May also condemned the murder saying “there is absolutely no honour in so-called honour killings and they should be referred to as acts of terror.” May also said it was ‘criminal’ for women to be murdered by their male relatives on the grounds of defending family ‘honour’. The daughter of the Pakistani Prime Minister Maryam Nawaz announced that “we have finalized the draft law (against “honour killings”) in the light of negotiations, and the final draft will be presented to a committee of joint session of parliament on July 21 for consideration and approval.”
Vigils for Baloch were held in Lahore and Karachi. International media outlets such as The Daily Mail, The Guardian, USA Today, New York Times, Time, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, The Hollywood Reporter, The Globe and Mail, and many others condemned the murder and raised awareness about honour killing. As per Facebook and Instagram policies, Baloch official pages were deleted.