By Manal Ahmed | Political Editor
Warning: this article discusses graphic violence and more.
A district and sessions court in Islamabad indicted 12 people on Thursday October 12 for their involvement in the murder of the 27-year-old daughter of a former diplomat, Noor Mukadam.
Mukadam was killed in what is believed to be a premeditated murder earlier this year. The chief suspect is Zahir Jaffer, whose role in the murder was revealed through DNA evidence and a confession from Jaffer.
The sessions court charged Jaffer, his parents, three members of household staff and six employees of Therapy Works – a counselling and rehabilitation centre where Jaffer was employed at the time of Noor’s murder. All those indicted plead not guilty.
On October 18, the Supreme Court of Pakistan granted bail to Jaffer’s mother, Asmat Adamjee, while the plea of her husband, Zakir Jaffer, was rejected. The two had filed separate petitions for bail after the Islamabad High Court had rejected them last month.
At the end of August, Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani granted the employees of Therapy Works – one of whom is CEO Dr. Tahir Zahoor – bail. This allowed them to make an appearance in court for their charges in a more personal manner than the remaining 6 indicted, who were brought in from Central Jail Rawalpindi, otherwise known as Adyala jail.
Noor Mukadam was killed after being held captive for two days, during which she was tortured and raped by her alleged murderer, Zahir Jaffer, on July 20. The son of the director of one of the oldest and largest trading and management firms in the country, Jaffer lived a lavish and privileged life, with access to nothing but the best to support him in his future.
However, from a young age he displayed violent tendencies and was briefly interred in a psychiatric facility to help regulate his mood. He had a significant drug and alcohol dependency and was allegedly deported from the UK because of his involvement in a sexual harassment case. The two met a few years ago and their families were known to each other.
Noor’s father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Jaffer under Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code. In the FIR, Shaukat stated that on 19 July he had travelled to a nearby city, to purchase a goat for Eid al-Adha while his wife had left the house to run errands. The two arrived home later that day and found Noor missing. Shaukat and his wife attempted to contact her throughout the night and into the early hours of the following morning but there was no response. The police believed her phone to be confiscated by Jaffer at this point.
At 10:43 am on July 20, Mukadam responded to her mother’s messages with a voice message, her final message before she was killed. That night, she jumped from a balcony and headed towards the main gate but she was allegedly stopped by a household guard and brought back inside by the accused.
The police believed it to be around this time that she was tortured, shot and then beheaded. Her body was found at his residence, in the affluent Sector F-7/4 of Islamabad.
The Therapy Works employees were called to the house in the immediate hours after her death, rather than the police, by Jaffer’s father. Police found the accused tied and a member of the Therapy Works team injured. The household staff indicted are believed to have played a complicit role which prevented her from escaping.
The safety of women in South Asia
The killing of Noor Mukadam has been at the epicentre of media and public attention in Pakistan, during a year which has seen numerous cases of sexual harassment and femicide – the killing of women because of their gender – in the country. The attention brought to the case was partly due to her influential background, but largely due to the frustration many felt at the ongoing, systemic violence against women, expressed through the hashtag #JusticeForNoor on Twitter.
During the hearing, Jaffer stated that Mukadam wanted to “sacrifice” her life and “presented herself for the sacrifice”, but ultimately asked for forgiveness from her father. Many members of the public noticed that by referring to her murder as a “sacrifice”, Zahir was attempting to cajole the Pakistani public into viewing the horrific incident as a case of qurbani (the act of sacrificing an animal, typically a goat, during the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah) rather than honor killing.
Jaffer confirmed this was a premeditated attack by contacting his parents and informing them that he would kill Noor if she refused his marriage proposal. Honor killing is the act of killing an individual on the basis that they have acted in an ‘unacceptable’ manner in public, frequently occuring when the perpetrator is a male family member of the victim. While this is illegal it remains commonplace in the country and human rights organisations have pushed the government to prosecute more cases of this and other acts of gender-based violence.
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