Qandeel Baloch, a Social Media Star Tragedy

Just saw a documentary on YouTube about the death of a young social media star, a lady by the name of Qandeel Baloch. I found it very moving. I found it to be dark and twisted, the events that unfolded till her death at the hands of her own brother who gave her sleeping pills and then strangled her to death in their own village house in Baloch. What was even more surreal was that this woman had fought and spoken about changing the image of Baloch, a place known for honour killing of women in the country. She was a girl from the most conservative part of the country steeped in Islamic tradition and male bigotry. She had her roots in the masses and she was not protected by the powerful and did not have the protection of wealth. Qandeel was fascinated by TV and wanted to be in the glamour world. She was a proud independent girl. Her parents got her married early. She was often beaten by her husband. She found her escape in her dreams of being a TV star and craved to be recognised by the world for her looks and talents. Her dreams took her to the big city where she auditioned for TV Idol. She started getting some roles on TV. But she only hit it big when she started using social media effectively and realised how she could get fame through this route, something unexpected in her country.

Her provocative dresses and hot videos in the bathtub heightened her sexual appeal as she became known as the Kim Kardashian of the social media world. Yes, soon there were news channels asking for interviews and our lady was giving interviews enjoying all the publicity. Her agent was surprised by how quickly she became popular. Fame came to her and she landed more acting and modelling assignments. The adulation and publicity also brought the hate. She was criticised on how she was dishonouring women and presenting a salacious image in public. She was crossing boundaries of what was expected to do in a Pakistani society which is steeped in male bigotry social suppression of its females. She was getting too hot to handle and her increasing fame was also coupled with notoriety as the media started pitting her against the mullahs who had a very contrary view on how she should present herself in public. This is typical of news channels interviewing two sides of the story and getting them to debate issues out. Now the oven was boiling. As soon as her interview was aired with a local mullah, her interview went viral. It seemed that the entire nation wanted to know who this woman was. Media went on an overdrive to trace her past, real name and family. She now had a family which was being shamed. Soon the events took a sinister twist as the Mullah invited her to his room for a chat and Qandeel videoed her chat to her online audience. She was almost flirting with the old man prancing around wearing his cap smoking away. This video went like wildfire and exposed her identity and that of her family. She had been shamed. What followed was a series of interviews with her and the mullah where she accused him of trying to make advances towards her. Now the mullah had been shamed. This resulted in the Mullah being thrown out of his job and stripped off his title. This was going to turn very ugly as Qandeel started getting death threats. In her village in Baloch, her brother was being taunted and humiliated by the local society. Men called him a pimp and his sister a whore. She had lost her honour and blackened the face of the region. Qandeel was in Teras as her mental state got worse and she came back to live with her family not knowing that this would also be her end. She was found dead in her room as the nation woke up to her death and a debate of honour killing erupted. This was a high profile case but more than 1000 women get killed in the name of honour in Pakistan and Qandeel was their flagbearer. She was killed by her family to save their honour.

A young life snuffed out of a star in the making. Her success on social media proved to be her undoing too. She was eaten up by her own image. With no protection of wealth or class, she was a sitting duck. How long will this go on, I do not know, but for Qandeel, her boldness became her undoing. Some even said she had it coming as breaking traditional boundaries led to her doom. This social media sensation in Pakistan was silenced forever.

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