Newsmaker 2016: Qandeel Baloch

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    Shine on you, crazy diamond

    Qandeel Baloch had the kind of vivacious brazenness that could have made her a star anywhere. This one-woman-show, initially thought to provide comic relief with her videos, eventually over powered social media into highlighting the everyday restrictions imposed by society on women. The nuance in her person unfolded in her various roles as a model, an actress and above all as a symbol for the emancipation of women, across the globe and especially in the subcontinent.

    From first gaining recognition through her allegedly controversial audition for Pakistan Idol, Qandeel went on to become an internet sensation. She topped the recently released list of ‘most googled people’ in Pakistan, in 2016 and her every interaction with the public challenged the masses to re-examine societal norms they’ve clung so dearly to.

    The peak of Qandeel’s highly individualised and bold endeavours for gender equality came in her interaction with the senior cleric, Mufti Abdul Qawi, when she invited him to learn more about her faith. True to her free spirit, Qandeel wore the Mufti’s hat at a stylish angle and uploaded selfies with him. The photographs went viral on social media, wreaking havoc amidst the conservative elements of the religious ulema and eventually resulted in the Mufti being suspended from his position. This particular episode was seminal not only because a female had the courage to treat a male religious cleric as a professional and an equal, but also because she exposed our hypocrisy. With the morality police determined to bring her shame, Qandeel singularly aroused a debate on how far a female may go in pursuit of her independent actions.

    She did not go gently into the night either. Even in her death, the same issues of a woman’s free will, the way she herself chooses to live her life and the patriarchal aspect of honour, all were discussed not just on TV talk shows but at homes across the country as well.