Qandeel Baloch is a name that needs no introduction. She was known as Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian and was its first social media celebrity. She was popular because of her controversial and bold videos in a country like Pakistan, which didn’t go down very well with her own brothers. She was strangled to death in the name of family honour by her own brother.
The minute I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to get my hands on it and had my cousin bring it over to Doha. Now let’s talk about the book.
“The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch” is much more than a biography of Qandeel Baloch. It not only talks about her life and death but also talks about the journey that transformed her from Fauzia Azeem to Qandeel Baloch. It gives a peek into the life of the people she was surrounded by, in her short-lived journey. Sanam Maher has done a great deal of research, travelling and meeting all these people and has written a very engaging read.
The book starts with her dead body being discovered in her parents home in Multan and then tracks back giving a glimpse of her simple childhood, an abusive relationship, her work with a modelling agency in Islamabad, her audition on Pakistan Idol, becoming an internet sensation with her bold videos, getting into controversies after controversies and finally the one with the Pakistani cleric Mufti Abdul Qavi.What I loved about the book was how Sanam Maher has brilliantly interwoven a few other stories of people whose life has been affected by social media. She talks about how internet played a role in the life and death of not only Qandeel but also a number of others. She meets and talks about Arshad Khan, the Chai Wala’s story of his overnight fame and his struggles with dealing with the fame and the pressures of a new alien lifestyle.
She also talks about how internet and technology have penetrated nearly every aspect of our daily lives but it comes with a price. It has given another avenue for bullying, crimes and blackmailing and social media adds much more to that menace. She has also included the story of Nighat Dad, a Pakistani lawyer and an internet activist who is the founder of The Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), which has started Pakistan’s first cyber harassment helpline. Alongside her, she discusses the case of the suicide of Naila Rind in her hostel room while completing her Master’s degree at the University of Sindh in Jamshoro. Naila hung herself as she was unable to cope with the cyber harassment from her alleged boyfriend.
I was absolutely hooked onto this book and spent a lot of time ‘googling’ the events/videos/interviews referred to in this book. And loved the way she has narrated those events. It was one of the most interesting reads in a long time.
It’s Sanam Maher’s first book and I must say – a great read!