Pakistani court has charged the brother of a slain social media star with her murder in one of the country’s most high profile honour killings.
Qandeel Baloch, dubbed the Pakistani Kim Kardashian, was found dead on July 15 in her home in Multan.
Her brother, Waseem Mohammad Baloch, appeared in court Monday charged with her murder.
The model was sexually demeaned by her detractors.
But fans praised her for daring to challenge social norms by appearing in videos that by Western standards would appear tame.
Waseem was produced before a court in the central city of Multan on Monday along with his cousin Haq Nawaz whom police deemed to be an accomplice, though the nature of his involvement was unclear.
A second indicted accomplice, taxi driver Abdul Basit, is on bail.
‘Judge Muhammad Saeed Raza indicted all the three men and adjourned the hearing until December 8,’ a government prosecutor said on condition of anonymity Tuesday, because he is not authorised to speak to media.
He added the accused had pleaded not guilty.
‘The court also asked police to submit a complete list of charges against all the accused on the next date of hearing,’ the prosecutor added.
Some of Baloch’s more notorious acts included offering to perform a striptease for the Pakistani cricket team, and donning a plunging scarlet dress on Valentine’s Day.
She also posed for selfies with a high-profile mullah in an incident that saw him swiftly rebuked by the religious affairs ministry.
Her murder reignited calls for action against so-called ‘honour killings’, in which a victim is killed by a close relative – who could subsequently be pardoned by another family member under Pakistan law.
In October parliament passed a law aimed at removing the ability to forgive ‘honour’ killers, but critics contend some loopholes still exist.
At the time of her death, up to 100 officers were gathered outside her family’s home in Muzzafarabad, preventing neighbours from gathering.
Five ambulances were also parked nearby.
The model shared hundreds of videos of her dancing in minimal clothing with her 123,000 Instagram followers.
Waseem went on the run and was arrested the day after his sister was killed in neighbouring Muzaffargarh district.
Hundreds of women are murdered for honour every year in Pakistan.
The killers overwhelmingly walk free because of a law that allows the family of the victim to forgive the murderer – who is often also a relative.
Filmmaker Sharmeemn Obaid-Chinoy, whose documentary on honour killings won an Oscar earlier this year, slammed Miss Baloch’s murder as symptomatic of an ‘epidemic’ of violence against women in Pakistan.
She joined other liberals in Pakistan who called for anti-honour killing legislation. ‘Activists have screamed themselves hoarse,’ she said. ‘When will it stop?’
But many conservatives pushed back, with some arguing online that her family would have had ‘no choice’.
‘Qandeel was an extremely astute individual who knew that what she was doing was more than being the most loved bad girl of Pakistan,’ columnist and activist Aisha Sarawari said.
She added: ‘[Her killing] defines yet another setback for the women of our generation. This makes it harder for women. Period’.
Benazir Jatoi, who works with the Aurat Foundation, a local NGO working on women’s legal and political empowerment, added: ‘Many in Pakistan have laid blame for her death on her bold and provocative public acts, but for me her lifestyle was irrelevant.’
‘Qandeel has put a face to the countless ordinary Pakistani women that are murdered because society has given carte blanche to men,’ she added.
‘It is not just the law that needs strengthening, it is also social attitude that needs to be reassessed.’
Miss Baloch provoked controversy in June after posing for selfies with a high-profile cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi, who was sternly rebuked by the country’s religious affairs ministry.
The pictures showed Miss Baloch wearing her traditional lamb’s wool cap as she posed next to the cleric.
Qavi later said she had asked him for a meeting and they met in a hotel.
On Valentine’s Day, she donned a plunging scarlet dress and posted a video message defying the country’s president, who had issued a stern warning against the ‘Western’ celebration.
The post garnered more than 70,000 ‘likes’.
Speaking at the time, she said: ‘People are going crazy – especially girls. I get so many calls where they tell me I’m their inspiration and they want to be like me.’
She had reportedly spoken of leaving the country after Eid out of fear for her safety, but was buried on Sunday and her father spoke briefly to Dawn News.