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Pakistan government bars social media star Qandeel Baloch's family from pardoning her brother

In an important step against honour killings, Pakistani authorities have barred the parents of slain social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch from forgiving their son for her murder. Currently, a loophole in the country's legal system permits the relatives of victims to forgive their assailants, often resulting in their acquittal.

Baloch was strangled and murdered by her brother Muhammad Waseem at their family home in Multan on the early hours of July 16. Waseem had earlier said that he had "no regrets" for the murder, as Baloch had brought "dishonour" to the family with her videos, photographs and social media posts.

"It was done on the instructions of the government. But it happens rarely," a Punjab police official told Reuters. The state has now become a complainant in the case, preventing Baloch's family from pardoning her brother.

Baloch was one of Pakistan's first social media stars. The 26-year-old was a self-made celebrity, and shot to fame with a series of daring videos and photographs. At the time of her death, she had over a million followers on Facebook and 45,000 on Twitter. Yet, she also became an unlikely social icon for women's freedom, calling herself a "modern-day feminist".

Baloch's high-profile death has sparked protests calling for a stronger law against honour killings to fix the loophole that allows many culprits to get away with honor killings. An online petition condemning her death and demanding her brother's trial has already attracted over 3,000 signatures.

Around 1,000 women die in honour killings in Pakistan every year. Earlier this year, the Oscar-winning film Girl in the River brought the issue into the limelight, with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promising to reform the existing laws. However, activists say there has been no progress in the last few months. The film's director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is among those who have called for an anti-honour killing law.

"It's upon the lawmakers to punish these people. We need to start making examples of people," Obaid-Chinoy said. "It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country — and you can walk off scot-free."

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