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Book Name: The Sensational Life And Death Of Qandeel Baloch
Book Author: Sanam Maher
‘A powerful and deeply moving account from an important new voice in non-fiction.’ —Sonia Faleiro Bold’, ‘Shameless’, ‘Siren’ were just some of the (kinder) words used to describe Qandeel Baloch.
‘Qandeel was a marvelous blaze. She set our dark world on fire and made enough light to expose the hypocrisies of Pakistan’s pious patriarchy. In Sanam Maher’s terrific and necessary book, those flames burn brighter than ever.’ —Bilal Tanweer
Qandeel embraced these labels and played the coquette, yet dished out biting critiques of some of Pakistan’s most holy cows. Pakistanis snickered at her fake American accent, but marveled at her gumption. Qandeel wasPakistan’s first celebrity-by-social media and She was the stuff of a hundred memes.
Qandeel first captured the nation’s attention on Pakistan Idol with a failed audition and tearful outburst. But it was in February 2016, when she uploaded a Facebook video mocking a presidential ‘warning’ not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, that she went ‘viral’. In the video, which racked up nearly a million views, Qandeel lies in bed, in a low-cut red dress, and says in broken English, ‘They can stop to people go out…but they can not stop to people love.’ The video shows us everything that Pakistanis loved—and loved to hate—about Qandeel, ‘Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian’.
Five months later, Qandeel would be dead. In July 2016, Qandeel’s brother would strangle her in their family home, in what was described as an ‘honour killing’—a punishment for the ‘shame’ her online behavior had brought to the family. Scores of young women and men are killed in the name of honor every year in Pakistan. Many cases are never reported, and of the ones that are, murderers are often ‘forgiven’ by the surviving family members and do not face charges. However, just six days after her death, the Anti-Honour Killings Laws Bill was fast-tracked in parliament, and in October 2016, the loophole allowing families to pardon perpetrators of ‘honour killings’ was closed.
What spurred the change? Was it the murder of Qandeel Baloch? And how did she come to represent the clash between rigid conservatism and a secular, liberal vision for Pakistan? Through dozens of interviews—with aspiring models, managers, activists, university students, lawyers, police officers and journalists, among them—Sanam Maher gives us a portrait of a woman and a nation.