KARACHI: On July 15th 2016 Pakistan proved that if you are a woman with a voice and determination to resist the preconceived notions set by the patriarchy then you must be silenced. Yesterday, a year ago, Qandeel Baloch was killed at the hands of her own brother. Many whose fragile masculinity was threatened by her existence rejoiced. Many who had wished death upon her owing to her ‘immoral’ behaviour she so proudly conducted online sighed in relief. Their collective peaceful silence was enough to overshadow the noise of resistance that followed after her death.
And a year later, nothing has changed. Qandeel’s murder brought honour killing close to home. In the comforts of our living rooms, from where we so nonchalantly criticised her, berated her and questioned her guts, we saw her gradually fade away. If this patriarchal milieu can silence a social media star right before our eyes then where do we stand, we questioned? What may have led to such a tragic end to a story that was only beginning to unfold, inspire and resist, we tried to fathom, just how we tried to assimilate her existence.
A year later, we still remember her as an honour killing victim, a Muslim woman who wasn’t given the right to channel her own agency. And that is where the problem lies. When she was alive we tried to label her immoral, the sex symbol, and after her demise, we wrote her off as a victim, an underprivileged woman waiting to be saved. But she was none then and she isn’t any today. Because Qandeel was a survivor, we chose to ignore — a young Fauzia Azeem who dreamed big and challenged everything in her way.
In a country that decides your future and the opportunities you would be given based in the social class you have been born into, she defied the class system. In a society that only values you if you have a male support system, she climbed up the ladder and challenged sexism.
She refused to be assimilated, because as much as you thought you were directing her narrative, “making her popular through your gaze” as you say, she had control over you and made you part of the story she wanted you to believe in.
After a year, if we still remember her as an honour killing victim then we are failing to realise the power she gave to people who refuse to assimilate — the women, the transgender people, the domestic abuse survivors or the underprivileged. Let’s not fail them. And let’s not fail Qandeel.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2017.