Pakistan: Protests against murder of Qandeel Baloch and anti-women gov't policies

Islamabad, July 18. Photo: Awami Workers Party.

The following press release was issued by the Awami Workers Party on July 18.

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Protestors gathered in front of the national press club in Islamabad on July 18 in solidarity with Qandeel Baloch, who was brutally strangled by her brother, and the thousands of women who are killed everywhere in Pakistan for defying the patriarchal straitjacket. The protest, organised by the Awami Workers Party included members of the Women's Action Forum, the Feminist Collective, and Insaani Huqooq Ittehad–as well as allies of women and opponents of anti-woman violence from around Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

They demanded justice. They said the government must ensure that justice is served and the killer, Qandeel Baloch's brother, is punished. They also said that the government must immediately enact stringent laws against anti-woman killings. "Qisa (blood money) and Diyat (retribution) laws allow murderers to avoid jail by seeking forgiveness from a victim's relatives. We must ensure that perpetrators do not escape justice on the pretext of such waivers, given by the wali (guardian) of the victim. The AWP demands that the government exercise its discretion under Section 311 of Pakistan Penal Code to refuse such compromises in cases categorised as 'honour killing' and immediately pass the anti-honour killing law currently being blocked in the National Assembly by the JUI-F," said AWP member Zoya Rehman.

“From Farzana Iqbal in Lahore who was stoned to death by men from her family to Jyoti Singh who was brutally gang raped in Delhi, from transgender Alisha who was shot in Peshawar to Zeenat Rafiq who was burnt alive by her family in Lahore, Qandeel Baloch joins thousands about thousands of women in Pakistan and around the world who are brutally raped, mutilated and murdered by men,” said AWP member Tooba Syed at the protest.

The protesters pointed out that Qandeel Baloch was a working class woman who was strangled because she refused to live the life her brother wanted her to live. When her family forced her to marry a man she did not want to live with, she ran away with her son to find sanctuary at Darul Aman. Here, she was forced to give up her only son, and found herself alone in a society that has no place for fierce and independent women. In a hostile world, she put herself through school and worked day and night as a bus hostess before joining an entertainment industry that, like the rest of the country, remains hostile against woman. With the money she pieced together she continued to support the family that had pushed her out, paying for her sister's wedding and her parents home.

AWP member Mahvish Ahmad added that Qandeel Baloch was a feminist who defied the patriarchy. “She was punished for transgressing the gendered norms that are fundamental to a brutal patriarchal order," said Mahvish Ahmad. She had already been threatened several times before her death, and had contacted the Interior Ministry, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Senior Superintendent of Islamabad to ask for protection–this protection was never given. Instead, an unethical and irresponsible Pakistani media published personal details including her real name, and information on her former husband and child. The information put both her child and her person at risk.

The protesters said that they feared that the same logic that punished Qandeel Baloch for transgressing gendered norms will attempt to justify the brutality of her death in vile and misogynistic comments.
"The murder of Qandeel Baloch was not motivated by honour, but by the fragile egos and insecurities of men who fear women who refuse to listen, who demand to be seen and heard," said Mahvish Ahmad.

AWP Rawalpindi-Islamabad's General Secretary, Nusrat Hussain, said that this was why the Awami Workers Party saluted her life and protested her death. "Qandeel Baloch was killed because she did not follow directions. She refused to live within the stringent confines of a patriarchal order, where women are not allowed to step out of line. She chose to live and love, sing and dance, laugh and play, as she pleased. In her embrace of herself, without regrets, she lived the life that she wanted to live, only to be punished for being herself. She was radical: Radically different, radically bold, radically political. And in this, we, the Awami Workers Party, find a comrade and a feminist, and we salute her for her bravery and courage," said Nusrat Hussain

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