Two months after the killing of social media celebrity, Qandeel Baloch, her parents, Azeem Khan and Anwar Bibi, wonder how life would unfold for them in a small town of Shah Sadar Din in Dera Ghazi Khan. “We’ve started begging for food to survive,” says 80-year-old Khan, while sitting in a small mud house in Basti Marrha in South Punjab.
Azeem Khan, a one-legged man who contracted tuberculosis a decade ago, adds that Qandeel had promised him better treatment and a prosthetic leg — “It was like a dream… Life couldn’t have been more cruel.”
Seventy four-year-old Bibi says that their children have left them on the mercy of God. “Neither was there honour in killing my daughter nor is there respect in begging for food”.
Last week, Qandeel’s parents were asked to vacate their rented accommodation in Mehmoodabad in Multan city. “The owner made us leave the house after we failed to pay the promised dues. Our life is in danger now as many of our relatives have threatened to kill us if we do not withdraw the case,” says Bibi.
“We want police security and don’t trust anyone, particularly family members,” adds Khan.
The relations between them and the residents of Basti Marrha became strained soon after Qandeel started posting sensational videos on social media and appeared as an artist in various tv shows. International media called her ‘Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian’ — a famous American reality television personality. But her last post with Mufti Abdul Qawi triggered a controversial debate, ranging from social ethics to religious obligations, which ultimately led to her murder.
Javed Iqbal Rind, brother-in-law of Qandeel Baloch, says, “Qandeel earned a bad name for the family and was finally eliminated. Our Baloch tribesmen do not accept girls who shame their elders”.
Rind has threatened to kill Azeem Khan if he does not withdraw the case against his son Mohammad Waseem, who admits killing Qandeel for disgracing the family.
Waseem was living with Javed Iqbal Rind before travelling to Multan to kill his sister.
Azeem Khan travels seven kilometres daily to the grave of his daughter in Marrha. “Following my daughter’s wish I have installed Pakistan’s flag on her grave,” he say, recalling that once Qandeel said to him, “Baba [father] sometime I feel my younger brother wants to kill me.”
All seven sons of Azeem Khan are pushing their parents to forgive Waseem as they cannot engage the services of a lawyer to plead his case in the court. “All our sons want me to forgive Waseem,” says Bibi, who repeatedly alleged Mufti Qawi for helping out the “murderers”, one of whom is his close relative.
The parents claimed that involvement of Mufti Qawi’s relative, who drove Waseem from Shah Sadar Din to Multan, could lead investigators to the real culprits behind their daughter’s murder. “Mufti’s role in my daughter’s murder cannot be ruled out — he must be investigated,” Anwar Bibi insists.
She alleges, “Mufti wanted to get rid of my daughter because of her activities on social media.”
Mufti Qawi denied the allegations, saying, “I have no role in this murder. I have answered the entire questionnaire investigators sent to me soon after I was accused of being involved in her murder. So involving me in this case is not fair. I’m a respectable religious scholar and my job is to bring misdirected souls on the right path. Peace and prosperity is our message.”
Preliminary investigation into this case has almost concluded, says Inspector Attiya Naheed Jaffri, a key investigator in the case. “We are about to submit the final investigation report to the court. It’s a unique case of honour killing where parents want to pursue this case but the villagers want them to withdraw it. Generally, parents pardon their sons.”
The investigator says, “They are also questioning Mufti Qawi. He is still an accused person in planning of Qandeel Baloch’s murder under section 109 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).”
“I don’t see justice being done with Qandeel’s parents,” says Safdar Shah, counsel for the parents. “The only point that favours my client is that the state has become a complainant in Qandeel’s murder case which bars family from pardoning killers. I’m pleading her case voluntarily, even bearing their travel and food expenditures from my own pocket.”
He adds that Sections 311 and 305 of the PPC has been added to the First Information Report of this case. “It’s a welcome step”.
Section 305 of the PPC maintains the wali will be the heirs of the victim, but will exclude the accused or convict in case of qatl-i-amd (wilful murder) if committed in the name or on the pretext of honour. Section 311 refers to the legal proceedings following the waiver or the compounding of right of qisas in wilful murder.
According to the investigator, the court granted bail to one of the main accused Zafar Iqbal in this case last month.
Chaudhry Mohammad Saeed, additional district session judge Multan, is hearing the case. Two investigators, inspector Attia Jaffri of Police Station Cheliak Multan and another Ilyas Haider were investigating the case.
Safdar Shah says that a new investigation officer is probing into this case with a broader scope of investigation. The murder case was initially registered with Muzaffargarh Police Station. Mohammad Waseem, his cousin Haq Nawaz and a relative of Mufti Qawi Mohammad Basit are in Central Jail Multan.