Pak cleric arrested in Qandeel Baloch murder case

Lahore: A prominent Pakistani cleric, who fled from a court in Multan following rejection of his bail plea today, was arrested in connection with the murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch.

Mufti Abdul Qavi today appeared before the sessions court in Multan in Punjab province, some 350-km from Lahore, to seek extension to his bail in the Qandeel murder case.

The court, however, did not grant him extension and ordered his arrest.

Mufti Qavi managed to flee the court but later in the day was arrested on the highway from Multan to Jhang.

“We alerted the highway police after Mufti Qavi managed to flee from the court premises with the help of lawyers. At a picket on Jhang Road he was arrested and brought to the Multan police,” Investigating Officer Noor Akbar told reporters.

“We will interrogate him for his alleged role in the murder of Qandeel before submitting a report to the court.”

Qavi is accused of inciting Qandeel’s brothers to kill her after she allegedly “humiliated” him by posting some objectionable pictures with the cleric on social media platforms.

Qandeel Baloch, 26, was found strangled to death in her house in Multan’s Karimabad area, some 350-km from Lahore, on July 16, 2016. Her younger brother, Waseem, confessed to police that he had killed Qandeel for disgracing family’s honour.

Waseem said he drugged Qandeel before strangling her.

“She brought dishonour to the Baloch name due to her risque videos and statements posted on social media,” he had said.

Qavi was embroiled in the controversy after Qandeel took selfies with him in a meeting in a hotel and made them viral on social media.

Qavi said Qandeel was killed because she committed a sin by humiliating a religious person.

Qandeel, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, had received threats from the supporters of Mufti Qavi.

Prior to her death, Qandeel spoke of worries about her safety and had appealed to the interior ministry to provide her with security. No help was provided by the ministry.

A case has been pending in the Multan sessions court.

Waseem and two others have been chargesheeted in the case.

Killing of women relatives in the name of honour is a menace still prevalent in many parts of Pakistan. More than 1,000 women are killed every year by their relatives on the pretext of defending what is seen as family honour.