Brother admits murdering model sister over "honor" lost to Facebook pics

Social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, who was strangled in what appeared to be an "honor killing," in Multan, Pakistan, is pictured in a selfie on her Facebook page.

Qandeel Baloch/Facebook/via Reuters

MULTAN, Pakistan - The brother of slain Pakistani model Qandeel Baloch on Sunday confessed to strangling her to death for "family honor" because she posted "shameful" pictures on Facebook.

Baloch, who had become a social media celebrity in recent months, stirred controversy by posting pictures online taken with a prominent Muslim cleric. She was found dead on Saturday at her family home in the central city of Multan.

Police arrested her brother, Waseem Azeem, and presented him before the media in Multan, where he confessed to killing her. He said people had taunted him over the photos and that he found the social embarrassment unbearable.

"I was determined either to kill myself or kill her," Azeem told The Associated Press as he was being led away.

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Waseem Azeem (R), the brother of slain social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, is escorted by police following his arrest for Qandeel's death in Multan, Pakistan, early on July 17, 2016.

SS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images

He said that even though Baloch was the main breadwinner for the family, he slipped her sedatives the night before and then strangled her in her sleep.

"Money matters, but family honor is more important," said Azeem.

Nearly 1,000 women are murdered in Pakistan each year for violating conservative norms on love and marriage. The so-called "honor killings" are often carried out by family members.

Such killings are considered murder. But Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim's family to pardon the killer, which often allows those convicted of honor killings to escape punishment.

This year alone, a schoolteacher, Maria Bibi, was set on fire for refusing to marry a man twice her age. The prime suspect in the case -- the father of the man she refused to marry -- and the other four are in custody.

A month earlier, police arrested 13 members of a local tribal council who allegedly strangled a girl and set her on fire for helping a friend elope. The charred body of 17-year-old Ambreen Riasat was found in a burned van.

In June, a different 17-year-old girl was burned alive by her own family for eloping with the man she loved quietly. Her mom said she had no regrets.

Regional police chief Sultan Taimuri said authorities will seek the maximum punishment for Azeem, without providing further details.

Baloch, whose real name was Fauzia Azeem, was buried Sunday.

She had shot to fame and notoriety through social media postings that would be considered tame by Western standards but were seen as scandalous by many in deeply conservative Pakistan.

A video of her dancing to a popular rap song was widely circulated, and at the time of her death she had 40,000 followers on Twitter and 700,000 on Facebook. In postings and public comments, she presented herself as a symbol of female empowerment

She became embroiled in scandal earlier this month when she posted pictures taken with Mufti Abdul Qavi, a prominent cleric, in a Karachi hotel room during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. In one picture, she is wearing the cleric's trademark fur-lined hat.

Qavi maintained that he only met with her to discuss the teachings of Islam. But the government suspended Qavi and removed him from the official moon-sighting committee that determines when Ramadan starts and ends in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar.