Pakistani court acquits model’s killer on parents’ pardon

Multan (AP) — A Pakistani man sentenced to life in prison in 2019 for strangling his sister, a model on social media, was acquitted of murder Monday after his parents pardoned him under Islamic law, an attorney for the man’s family said.

Waseem Azeem was arrested in 2016 after he confessed to killing Qandeel Baloch, 26, for posting what he called “shameful” pictures on Facebook. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison but his parents had sought his release, said Sardar Mahboob, a lawyer who represents Azeem and his family.

Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim’s family to pardon a convicted killer.

Baloch’s murder at the time drew nationwide condemnation, but critics suspected Azeem could walk out of prison after his conviction if his parents forgave him.

Mahboob said Azeem could be freed as early as this week after the completion of paperwork.

The siblings’ mother, Anwar Bibi, welcomed the court order. “I am happy over the acquittal of my son, but we are still sad for our daughter’s loss,” she said.

She told reporters that her slain daughter cannot come back “but I am thankful to the court, which ordered the release of my son at our request.”

Baloch was found strangled in her home near the city of Multan in Punjab province. She was killed after she posted racy pictures on Facebook of herself with a Muslim cleric, Mufti Abdul Qawi, who was later arrested for his alleged involvement in the murder.

The cleric was later freed as police said they could not establish a link to the murder.

Nearly 1,000 Pakistani women are murdered by close relatives each year in so-called “honor killings” for violating conservative norms on love and marriage. Such killings are considered murder. But Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim’s family to pardon the killer, which often allows those convicted of honor killings to escape punishment.