Qandeel Baloch, I have never heard her name until her murder by her own brother became the headline of International media in 2016. Honour Killing, the medieval curse, still widely practiced in Asian subcontinent countries. One google search with the keyword Honour Killing will give a search result of hundreds of fresh reports on that topic.
Qandeel was Pakistan’s first celebrity on social media. Every day she would put videos featuring herself on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram. She would make videos talking about her daily moods, or record herself singing, or she would speak about topics she finds interesting or ask ‘How am I looking?.’ I never watched them until I started reading this book. I found those videos uninteresting.
But for thousands of her fans, those videos were their daily dose of entertainment. She had many followers. It is impossible to count how many times her viral videos were and still are watched or shared on different platforms. She made many enemies on her way to fame. She would get death threats, nasty comments every day. Her first controversial video was where she said she wanted to marry Imran Khan. The second was when she declared she would strip dance for her audience if Pakistani Cricket team wins the world cup that year. Later she had to apologize through her channels and on Television shows where she was invited as a guest. It is suspected that her last controversial video with Mufti Qavi was the reason for her death.
Her original name was Fouzia Azeem. Since her childhood, she loved to dance and sing and was attracted to the glamorous world of Television. She wanted to be famous. But her religion considers singing and dancing as sin, even for the boys. According to her, she was forced to marry her mother’s cousin who was much older to her. Her ex-husband said in interviews after her death, she was in love with him and used to write him letters with her own blood. It was a typical abusive marriage. She would come back to her home weeping with bruises, burns from cigarettes, electric shocks. He would threaten her to throw acid on her face. Her mother would still send her back to him as that is their culture, tradition.
How she broke free from her marriage, gave up on her son’s custody and became the first Pakistani celebrity of this selfie generation was a thrilling journey with lots of ups and downs. Many cherished her death calling her horrible names. Few mourned and protested. Those who protested were trolled, threatened and shut down. One of my acquaintances on Facebook is an activist and studying women’s rights in Karachi. When I asked for his opinion about her life and death he got really emotional. He was her fan. He said he was devasted after hearing the news. He was trolled and threatened for expressing grief on his Facebook wall.
A person from her village in Multan told a reporter very casually “We have a tradition here that every second or fourth day some girl is killed and thrown in the river. You media guys are creating hype for nothing.” Thankfully her parents didn’t believe so and never tried to save their son Waseem and his cousin. They testified against them in court. Qandeel was scared for her life for
quite some time and was seeking for help but media and others told her she was saying all these for a publicity stunt.
Why would her brother plan to kill her suddenly when he had no problem with her lifestyle and never hesitated to take monetary support from her for his business for so many years? Was Mufti Qavi involved in her murder? Or her elder brother Aslam? Answers to such questions are probably available in a quick search on google. But who were her friends? How was her journey as a model?
How was she as a person? How is the life of a model in Pakistan? Why are they forced to choose such life? These answers could be found only in this book.
In addition to all that, I got to know about Nighat Dad who launched Pakistan’s first cyber harassment helpline and a lawyer. She too gets life threats on a regular basis.
Arshad Khan, the blue-eyed, beautiful tea-seller who became an internet sensation the same year, didn’t even know how to read or write. He was pulled into the glamorous world of modeling by media and then was threatened too after featuring in a romantic music video.
This book is a must read. I would highly recommend this book to those who take interest in Human Rights.
Author(s): Sanam Meher
Publisher: Aleph Book COmpany
Release: June 2018
Genre: Non Fiction/Biography
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