MULTAN  -  Mufti Abdul Qavi, a local cleric nominated in the murder case of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch, was arrested by Multan police while fleeing to Jhang after cancellation of his pre-arrest bail by the court here on Wednesday.

A police spokesman confirmed the arrest of Mufti and said he had been shifted to a police station for interrogation.

Police sources said Mufti was traced from his mobile phone’s location and highway police caught him at a check-post on Muzaffargarh-Jhang Road. Earlier, the police conducted unsuccessful raids at the residence and seminary of Mufti after he managed to escape from the court.

The hearing of Qandeel Baloch murder case was held in the court of Sessions Judge Ameer Muhammad Khan. After hearing the arguments of defence and prosecution counsels, the court cancelled the bail of Mufti and issued orders to police to act against him under sections 302 and 109. However, Mufti managed to escape with the alleged connivance of the investigation officer of the case. The police sources said Mufti would be produced before the court within 24 hours to seek his physical remand.

Meanwhile, the Multan CPO suspended the investigation officer of the case, Sub Inspector Noor Akbar, for allegedly facilitating Mufti in escaping from the court. The sources said a case was also registered against Noor Akbar and he was arrested. He was also reprimanded by the court for his failure to submit the challan of the case despite lapse of 15 months.

The social media celebrity was murdered by her brother on July 16, 2016, in the name of honour. Police registered a case on the application of Qandeel’s father who nominated his sons. Muhammad Waseem who was arrested by police confessed to his crime. The police suspected that Mufti who lost his slot in Ruet-e-Hilal Committee due to the issue provoked Qandeel’s brothers to kill her.

AFP adds: Prosecutors had been urging the court to also indict Mufti Abdul Qavi, whose phone records showed he had been in touch with Waseem after he was embroiled in controversy with Qandeel Baloch earlier last year.

He was sacked from his position on a government committee and rebuked by a religious affairs council after Baloch released pictures of herself with him in a hotel room weeks before her murder, wearing his hat and pouting.

She later called Qavi a "blot on the name of Islam" and accused him of inappropriate behaviour.

"I thought I would expose him as he is in reality," she told AFP at the time, adding: "He is a different person alone and different when he has his followers around him."

Prosecutor Ziaur Rehman told the judge that Qavi's phone records showed he had been in contact with Baloch's brother Waseem and cousin Haq Nawaz, accused by police of being an accomplice, before the murder.

Senior police official Fahad Ahmad confirmed the arrest and said that police were investigating Qavi.

Some of Baloch's more notorious acts included offering to perform a striptease for the Pakistani cricket team, and donning a plunging scarlet dress on Valentine's Day.

Initially dismissed as a Kim Kardashian-like figure, she was seen by some, including many young people, as empowered in a country where women have fought for their rights for decades.

Her murder reignited calls for action against an epidemic of so-called "honour killings", in which a victim is killed by a close relative - who can subsequently be pardoned by another family member under the law.

In October last year parliament passed a law aimed at removing the ability to forgive "honour" killers. But critics contend some loopholes still exist.

Baloch's brother Waseem told a press conference in the days after the killing that he had no remorse over what he did, saying that "of course" he had murdered his sister and adding that her behaviour had been "intolerable".

Waseem, his cousin Nawaz, and a taxi driver named Abdul Basit were indicted in December, with Waseem pleading not guilty, despite his earlier statements.

The trial has yet to begin.