LAHORE – The third death anniversary of Fouzia Azeem, aka Qandeel Baloch the social media sensation who came to a tragic end after her brother allegedly strangled her to death was observed on Monday.
Qandeel was killed in July 2016. Her brother confessed to the murder, saying her actions had brought dishonour to his family.
Qandeel was the first female Pakistani social media celebrity, who belonged to a working class rural family from the province of Punjab and had over 750,000 followers on Facebook.
Baloch, born with the name Fauzia Azeem, hailed from Shah Saddardin a little-known village that only entered the national imagination after Baloch was buried there.
By her own admission, and that of her parents, she belonged to a conservative family that she herself supported.
Baloch bought her parents a house in Multan (the same house in which her brother drugged her and her parents and then strangled her while she slept), and financed a younger sister’s wedding.
By the end of 2015, Qandeel had strongly created its position in Pakistan’s burgeoning celebrity landscape through regular Facebook and Instagram posts.
In June 2016, Baloch met senior cleric Mufti Abdul Qawi in at a hotel to learn more about her faith; the interaction between them brought about mayhem on social media platforms as their photos went viral online.She also wore a hat with the Mufti’s signature.
The meeting led to the Mufti being suspended from his position from one of Pakistan’s religious committees, and to Baloch being a regular on popular Pakistani current affairs and news programmes.
She appeared on various popular Pakistani TV shows with senior anchors such as Mubashir Lucman. She would mostly be on talk shows debating with religious scholars on her western and controversial acts and lifestyle.
A previous stunt which went viral on social media was her promise to strip dance for her followers and to dedicate her dance to cricketer Shahid Afridi if Pakistan won the Twenty20 match against India on 19 March 2016. She released a teaser on social media, which went viral, but Pakistan lost the match. Some Indian media compared her to Poonam Pandey at this point due to her controversial personality.
As her media presence grew, Baloch began to use her position to comment on women’s position in Pakistani society. The week before she died, she released a music video entitled Ban, which mocked the restrictions placed on women in the country.
She also said that many organizations, people and media groups were calling her to feature in their shows to increase their own ratings.
On 15 July 2016, Qandeel Baloch was drugged and then asphyxiated by her brother Waseem while she was asleep at her parents’ home in Multan. Her death was reported by her father Azeem. It was first reported as a shooting, but an autopsy report confirmed that Baloch was murdered by asphyxiation while she was asleep, on the night of 15–16 July, around 11:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.