By midday the following day Qandeel was in hiding. The photo of the Cleric and her, had gone viral, obviously, that had been the point. But the backlash had been entirely unprecedented. She had expected the usual hate comments and not people throwing stones on her apartment windows. She realised there was a problem when the woman who cleaned her apartment had not come early in the morning as she usually did, and upon calling her she had hurled a torrent of insults at Qandeel ending the call by asking her not to call her again. And when she went out into the street to buy something from the grocer, she didn’t quite make it there, the vendors whom she greeted every morning looked aside and didn’t return her greetings. But she had continued, until some young men had started throwing stones at her, then she had to run back in terror and shock back to her apartment.
Upon returning, she saw that stones had been thrown into her windows and there was glass everywhere. In panic she tried calling one of her friends, Rashid, the one with the thick side burns and thick accent. His phone was not available. She then tried Siddiq, the short and stocky one’s number who answered with, ‘Qandeel, you are in deep shit,’ words from an American action movie.
‘Just come here and help me out,’ she said trying to control her trembling.
When he came, a sizeable crowd had already gathered outside her apartment block. The owner had begun shouting at her to leave the building before the crowd destroyed everything he had worked 40 years for. It was in a hijab and burkha, black in colour that Qandeel fled Karachi, boarded a bus and left for her home village in Punjab. In her desperate attempts she had tried to call the Cleric to give her some security since he was such an influential person but it had been to no avail.
Home, for Qandeel, was filled with memories of tears, and blood; of suffering, poverty and invisibility. It was a reminder of the husband who had beaten her up every day of her pregnancy, until she ran away to a shelter for the survivors of domestic violence. It was a stark reminder of a mother, frail and old who worked hard as a housekeeper to support her siblings and their father who was an amputee and drank himself into a stupor. It was where her six brothers were, some married with their own children, and Waseem, the youngest, was still living with their parents in the two bedroomed house. Waseem was one of the people who sent her the worst comments on her posts on social media. ‘I wish you would die. What wrong did we do to Allah to get a sister like you, ‘I am sure you are not my sister at all.’ ‘Our mother should tell us who your real father is.’ ‘The day, these men that like your photos gang rape you is the day I will rejoice.’ And such like comments. Yes, home was a prison, with a big lock whose keys had been lost for some time now.
‘Welcome home Fauzia,’ her mother had said with tears streaming down her eyes when she entered the shabby two bed roomed house that had been her home for years. The roof leaked, the walls unpainted and the floors had holes in them. She sent her mother money but it never seemed to be enough especially with her father wanting to drink some of it.
Immediately her brother Waseem had started shouting at their mother, ‘Why do you encourage her? Why do you welcome this whore here, after all she has done to put this family in shame?’
‘Yes, Fauzia has put our family in a lot of shame but she is still my daughter and your sister, and this is still her home,’
Thankfully her father said nothing.
Qandeel asked to go and sleep. The shock of the flight and fearing for her life had taken a toll on her more than the long journey from Karachi to Punjab. Wearily she collected her things from the broken floor and made way to one of the bedrooms leaving her brother angrily shouting insults after her. Soon after she heard him slam the door hard behind him as he went out, presumably to find an illegal alcohol selling bar.
Waseem was with Abdillah in a sports bar waiting for the cricket match to continue on aTV which a lot of men like him were crowding around. Suddenly, the TV went from a commercial break to showing a newscaster in the news room of the national broadcaster. The words breaking news were flashed across the screen in red.
In his office, the Cleric’s favourite radio station suddenly stopped playing its usual slow soothing music and a dramatic voice came on, shouting, ‘Breaking news……’
In the street, a taxi driver was listening to his car radio next to the Sheraton Hotel where the cobbler was, he stopped sewing his shoe mid air when suddenly someone came to report that some woman had died.
‘Breaking news. A woman was killed in Punjab district……’ Waseem stopped listening as the video footage of woman being ferried from her home into an ambulance on a stretcher bed was shown. The ambulance was surrounded by a lot of angry looking men. No woman was in sight, except for the dead woman on the stretcher bed of course. The video footage was stopped momentarily as a picture of the dead woman was plastered across the whole screen. The news anchor continued, ‘The woman known as Qandeel Baloch was a controversial social media celebrity who referred to herself as a modern day feminist. ’
This story is a fiction version of Pakistan internet sensation, Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered by her brother in an honour killing.
Story written by Godess Bvukutwa. Godess enjoys creating powerful female characters in her work of fiction. And is forever in fear of boring readers of her non fiction pieces. She gardens, reads and plays with her daughter aside from writing.
Main Image, Qandeel Baloch’s funeral. Image taken from www.indiantvnews.com