Qandeel Baloch (C) and her father (R) and brother Waseem Azeem. File
Qandeel Baloch, 26, became famous for her suggestive and defiant posts on Facebook.
Her brother Muhammad Waseem was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison for strangling her, brazenly telling the press he had no remorse for the slaying because her behaviour was "intolerable."
"He has been fully acquitted" by a court in the eastern city of Multan, his lawyer Sardar Mehboob told AFP, without giving further details. The court order has yet to be made public.
Waseem was arrested in 2016 after he confessed to killing Qandeel Baloch, for Islamic law in Pakistan allows a murder victim’s family to pardon a convicted killer.
Qandeel Baloch’s murder at the time drew nationwide condemnation, but critics suspected Waseem could walk out of prison after his conviction if his parents forgave him.
Mahboob said Waseem could be freed as early as this week after the completion of paperwork.
The siblings' mother, Anwar Bibi, welcomed the court order. "I am happy over the acquittal of my son, but we are still sad for our daughter's loss," she said.
She told reporters that her slain daughter cannot come back "but I am thankful to the court, which ordered the release of my son at our request."
The case became the most high profile "honour killing" of recent years — where women are dealt lethal punishment by male relatives for purportedly bringing "shame" to the reputation of a family.
Under a recent Pakistani law change, perpetrators are no longer able to seek forgiveness from the victim's family — sometimes their own family — and to have their sentences commuted.
However, whether or not a murder is defined as a crime of honour is left to the judge's discretion, meaning killers can theoretically claim a different motive and still be pardoned.
In Qandeel Baloch's case, her parents initially insisted their son would be given no absolution. But they later changed their minds and said they wanted him to be forgiven.
A lawyer for the siblings' mother said she had given "her consent" to pardon him, according to her lawyer Safdar Shah. He is expected to be released later this week.
"Waseem may now walk free while Qandeel was condemned for stepping outside the bounds of what is deemed 'acceptable' behaviour for women in Pakistan," biographer Sanam Maher said. "After today's verdict, we may ask, who killed her?" she added.
Three months after Qandeel Baloch's murder Pakistan's parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.
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