Five days ago, after her meeting with Mufti Qavi had been broadcast on practically every news channel in the country, an Urdu language newspaper based in Multan managed to find out her real name. A reporter had even discovered that she had worked as a bus hostess. He had picked apart the threads of the story she had woven – the story of Qandeel Baloch – for her social media followers. The paper had printed pictures of her passport and National Identity Card. Now everyone knows her real name: Fouzia Azeem. The news has run online and has been picked up by the mainstream English and Urdu media outlets.
During this interview, her first major one since her real name was revealed, she plays it down. When Sohail briefly touches upon it and asks her to confirm what her real name is, she reminds him, “Well, now the whole world knows it.” She airily tells him that everyone in her family calls her “Qandeel”, and has done so ever since she was a little girl.
Did the people who put out that story think that they could hurt her by telling the whole world her real name? By telling everyone where she came from? She is certain she is being targeted because she has humiliated Mufti Qavi.
She was trying to show people what a fake person, a fake scholar who uses religion for his own purposes, looks like. Now she is being called an impostor, a “fake person” simply because she changed her name when she entered show business. “Message to my country’s people,” she writes on her Facebook page. “Just be aware of such fake people who have two faces and who are cheating people in the name of religion.” She adds, “Qandeel Baloch is not two faced as like such people. What I am my fans know me #DoubleStandardPeople #Hypocrite_Fake #No_Support.”
I’m literally feeling alone in the fight. I tried to reveal the true faces but actually I’m banged for that. I should not take such steps.
She has heard that Mufti Qavi has been removed from his post in the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, a position he loved to brag about. She doesn’t take pleasure in his humiliation. She feels bad for him, but something tells her that he will bounce back from this stronger than ever.
Mufti Qavi deserves worse than this.
She does not want to talk about Mufti Qavi in public any more. Only people in show business seem to be pleased with the scandal.
She received a phone call the other day from an event planner who wants Qandeel to be the show stopper in an upcoming fashion show.
Everyone has seen the photos and videos from the Qavi meeting and everyone is talking about her, the planner says. But Mansoor warns her to be careful when talking about religion – not everyone is pleased with how she has been talking about the cleric. There are no more gleeful tweets (Mufti badnaam hua Qandeel tere liye). Instead, she makes an announcement on her Facebook page: “I’m too upset with what has happened in the past couple of weeks and I here by [sic] announce that I do not have any issues with Mufti Qavi, whatever has happened between both of us is PAST now.” She makes an apology: “I respect my religion and this issue is portraying Islam in a wrong way which is surely not acceptable for me.” So when Sohail asks her about Mufti Qavi during the interview, she will only say that whatever has happened is God’s will.
The day after the shoot, she calls Sohail. She wants to tell people about the text messages she has been receiving and how angry she feels that pictures of her passport and National Identity Card were printed in a newspaper. She wants to hold a press conference. Can he tell her how to go about it?
He sees her the next day on TV in that same sleek brown bobbed wig as her press conference at the Lahore Press Club is carried live by many channels. She wears a shalwar kameez with a dupatta modestly covering her and purple tinted sunglasses that make it impossible to see her eyes. Is she on the verge of tears?
She sits at a table with a bouquet of microphones fanned out in front of her. “I have called you here today because you must have seen how there has been so much said about me on social media and the media,” she tells the reporters. “I have one question: why is Qandeel Baloch being maligned? What have I done? I am, by the grace of Allah, a Muslim and a daughter of this nation.” She wants to address what she has been saying about Mufti Qavi. “I don’t think that all muftis are bad, and not all ulemas are bad”’ she explains. “Being a Muslim girl, I respect all the clerics because they keep Islam alive...but it is people like Mufti Abdul Qavi who disgrace Islam with what they do behind closed doors. I have no quarrel with other religious clerics. I respect them. I didn’t set out to humiliate Mufti Abdul Qavi.Whatever has happened is God’s will.”
Her voice quavers.”But after this whole incident with Mufti Abdul Qavi, I’ve gotten so many threats, so many threats that I cannot sleep at night,” she says.
She is getting calls from numbers in Afghanistan, and threatening emails and messages. “My sources have told me to go underground,” she reveals. “I am a prisoner in my own home.”
She is afraid of the strangers who are getting in touch with her. She fears for her life and for her family. She wants the government to provide her with protection. “If something happens to me tomorrow or something happens to my family, then the (government) will be held responsible,” she declares.
The reporters are nonplussed. There are so many women in showbiz, one says to her, and they aren’t getting these kinds of threats. Perhaps it is because they don’t get up to the kinds of antics you do. You say that you have showed us Mufti Qavi’s “real face”. Who are you planning to expose next? Sohail watches the press conference and marvels at her for having squeezed in an interview and a dramatic press conference on her trip to Lahore – paid for by his producers. He doesn’t think much of the threats that Qandeel mentions. After all, she seemed like quite an attention-seeker, didn’t she?
I’m telling you that my life is in danger and you’re accusing me of a publicity stunt? I can’t say anything to that.
When she comes back to Karachi, she meets her old friend Mansoor, and he takes her over to a friend’s house. She often breaks her fast with this friend in the evenings. He scolds her for the videos and photographs with Mufti Qavi and says she does not understand the danger she is putting herself in. Come stay with me for a few days, he offers. It’s safe in my home with so many guards and people around all the time. She refuses and says she is planning to go to her parents in Multan for Eid, as she does every year. She says she wants to leave Pakistan for a little while, perhaps with her parents, after Eid. She jokes that this friend has not given her Eidi yet. As she is leaving, he hands her $100. He does not understand why she is going back to Multan right now. It isn’t safe for her. They’ll get you killed, he says unhappily, but perhaps she is too excited about the crisp green note to pay attention to that or ask him who exactly “they” are.
Excerpted with permission from The Sensational Life and Death of Qandeel Baloch, Sanam Maher, Aleph Book Company.