LAHORE • A Pakistani social media celebrity whose selfies polarised the deeply conservative Muslim country has been murdered by her brother in a suspected honour killing, prompting shock and revulsion.
Ms Qandeel Baloch, dubbed Pakistan's "Kim Kardashian" for the sexy photos she shared online, was held up by many of the country's youth for her willingness to break social taboos but condemned and reviled by traditional elements.
She was strangled near the city of Multan on Friday night by her brother, identified as Waseem, who has since fled. He had been warning her to stop posting photos and videos on Facebook, police said.
"Qandeel Baloch has been killed. She was strangled by her brother. Apparently it was an incident of honour killing," Mr Sultan Azam, senior police officer in Multan, said yesterday.
Ms Baloch, 26, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, had travelled with her family from the city of Karachi to Muzzafarabad village in central Punjab province for the recent Eid holiday.
'NO WOMAN IS SAFE'
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.
FILM-MAKER SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY, saying the murder of Ms Baloch would make women feel less safe.
Hundreds of women are murdered, often by relatives, for "honour" every year in Pakistan.
The killers often walk free because of a law that allows relatives of the victim to forgive the murderer.
Ms Baloch shot to fame in Pakistan in 2014 after a video of her pouting at the camera and asking "How em looking?" went viral.
Earlier this month, she released a music video which she starred in alongside little-known young singer Aryan Khan. Titled Ban, the music video touched on Ms Baloch's status as a controversial social media icon and showed her twerking and dancing seductively with the male singer. The video had over 1.3 million views as of yesterday.
Held up by many young people in the country for her liberal views and forthrightness, Ms Baloch - who posed with mullahs and courted controversy with selfies in revealing dresses - was also reviled by many and frequently subjected to misogynist abuse online.
Film-maker Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy, whose documentary on honour killings, A Girl In The River: The Price Of Forgiveness, won an Oscar earlier this year, said the murder would make women feel less safe.
"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."
Mrs Obaid-Chinoy's film was hailed by Pakistan's Prime Minister, Mr Nawaz Sharif, who in February vowed to push through anti-honour killing legislation.
No action has been taken since then, despite a fresh wave of attacks on women recently that has been roundly and loudly condemned by activists.
Reports said Ms Baloch had spoken of leaving the country after Eid out of fear for her safety.
But on Friday, moments before her death, Ms Baloch reiterated her unapologetic style in one of her last Facebook posts: "No matter how many times I will be pushed down under... I am a fighter, I will bounce back."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DAWN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK