A grisly murder in Islamabad involving families from the privileged elite has dominated headlines for the past week. The case stirred national outrage over femicides in Pakistan.
Noor Mukadam, 27, was the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat. She was found beheaded in a posh neighborhood of the capital on July 20. Police have charged Zahir Jaffer, a US national and scion of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families, with murder.
Investigators say the two were friends. Jaffer lured Mukadam, the daughter of Pakistan’s former envoy to South Korea, to his home. He also held her there for two days, and then brutally murdered her.
Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan annually. Thousands more are victims of brutal violence. However, few cases get media attention. Meanwhile, a small fraction of perpetrators are punished.
This killing has touched a segment of society. It has sparked a public outcry, unlike any other recent case.
“The status of the families involved, especially the family of Zahir Jaffer, and of course Noor’s father being a former ambassador. This happening within the elite circles of Islamabad…all of that combined definitely has brought more attention to this case,” said Nida Kirmani. She is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
Mukadam’s murder has become the most keenly reported femicide in recent history. Social media erupted with furious disgust. There have been protests and vigils in major cities, as well as in Canada and the United States.
Facing public anger, the Jaffer family took out full-page advertisements in newspapers distancing themselves from the murder and calling for justice.
Zahir Jaffer pretends to faint while taking a polygraph test
Police took Jaffer to Lahore on Friday with heavy security for a polygraph test at the Punjab forensic lab. It has been reported that experts at the lab asked him 20 questions. They also conducted a forensic analysis of the CCTV footage of the incident.
GEO News has reported that before the test was taken, Zahir kept trying to make excuses and also acted as he had fainted.
For many women in the country’s capital, even that semblance of freedom and safety has been shattered.
“I have daughters, too, and I worry day and night if this happens to my own daughter who will stand with me?,” Amna Salman Butt, told Reuters at a vigil for Mukadam in Islamabad.
“When someone mistreats us will we have to come up with hashtags too?,” she said, referring to the #JusticeForNoor hashtag that has dominated Twitter in Pakistan.
While the daily twists and turns of the trial unfold in the national media gaze, rights groups in Pakistan say the government should pass a landmark bill meant to tackle domestic violence in order to assuage some anger.
The bill streamlines the process for obtaining restraining orders, and defines violence broadly, to include “emotional, psychological and verbal abuse.”
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