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Brother acquitted for 'honour killing' of Pakistani social media star

Muhammad Waseem, who sentenced to life in prison for strangling his sister, was acquitted. ©AFP

Lahore (Pakistan) (AFP) - The brother of a Pakistani social media star who was murdered in one of the country's most notorious "honour killings" was acquitted on Monday after serving less than six years in prison, lawyers said.

Qandeel Baloch, 26, became famous for her suggestive and defiant posts which flew in the face of the nation's deeply patriarchal mores before her death in 2016.

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.

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 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 told AFP.

"After today's verdict, we may ask, who killed her?" she added.

Three months after Baloch's murder Pakistan's parliament passed new legislation mandating life imprisonment for honour killings.