Zahir Jaffer's lawyers request medical board to determine murder suspect's 'mental health'

In this file photo, Zahir Jaffer, main suspect Noor Mukadam murder case, sitting in a court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 14, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Social Media)
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Updated 01 December 2021

Zahir Jaffer's lawyers request medical board to determine murder suspect's 'mental health'

  • Jaffer’s legal team says medical board should determine “lunacy” of the main accused
  • At indictment hearing in October, Jaffer admitted he had committed murder of Noor Mukadam

ISLAMABAD: The legal team for Zahir Jaffer, the main accused in the grisly July murder of Noor Mukadam, filed an application in a sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday requesting that a medical board be set up to assess the mental health of the key suspect.

Last month Zahir Jaffer was expelled from the court after he ‘disrupted’ a trial hearing in which witnesses were being cross-examined. Just a week earlier, police officers had to carry Jaffer out of the courtroom building after he used indecent language and misbehaved with the judge during a hearing. Islamabad police have also registered a criminal case against Jaffer for using “abusive language” inside the courtroom and attempting suicide on the court premises.

In Wednesday’s application, Jaffer’s lawyer said that the accused was a “chronic patient of mental disorder / Schizo-affective disorder due to drug psychosis and the same was the position at the time of his arrest on 20.07.2021.”

The team asked the court to authorize setting up a medical board “to determine the lunacy / mental health of accused Zahir Jaffer in the interest of justice.”

“Local police and investigating agency, remained fail or willingly avoided to disclosed the mental health condition of accused Zahir Jaffar to the record and courts due to social / complaint’s influence as the complainant is an ambassador and has good connections in the power corridors,” the application added. 

Mukadam, 27, the daughter of Shaukat Mukadam, Pakistan’s former ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan, was found beheaded at a residence in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20. The prime suspect, Jaffer, was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder and has been in custody since.

At his indictment hearing in October, Jaffer admitted he had committed the “crime” but appealed to the judge to release him from jail and put him under house arrest.  

The murder trial that began in October is one of the most closely watched in Pakistan’s recent history, as the case has sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women.  

The transcript of the CCTV footage showing events that preceded Mukadam’s murder was submitted by the prosecution last month. It said the victim had jumped from the first floor of the chief accused’s house but was prevented by staff from leaving the premises.  

Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, three of their household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six workers from Therapy Works, a counselling center from where Jaffer had received certification to become a therapist and where he had been receiving treatment in the weeks leading up to the murder. 

After 11-day blockade, Pakistani users report being able to use X without VPN

Updated 28 February 2024

After 11-day blockade, Pakistani users report being able to use X without VPN

  • X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in Feb. 8 elections
  • X’s prolonged disruption has raised widespread concerns about state of democratic freedoms

ISLAMABAD: After being inaccessible for millions of Pakistanis for 11 consecutive days, many users reported they were able to use the social media platform X without enabling a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on Wednesday morning. 

X first went down on Feb. 17 when a government official confessed to manipulating votes in Pakistan’s Feb. 8 general election. The admission came as former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and other political parties staged protests countrywide, alleging the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had rigged elections, which it denies. Mobile phone services were also shut down on polling day over security threats. 

X’s prolonged disruption has raised widespread concerns about the state of democratic freedoms in the country, with the United States and several international organizations urging Pakistan to provide unhindered Internet access and leading digital rights activists calling the blockade a “blatant violation” of civil liberties. 

On Wednesday afternoon, multiple Arab News staffers were able to access X without a VPN, which can mask the identity and location of users to help access websites and services that may be blocked in a certain region. 

VPNs have become increasingly popular in the days since access to X was cut off for much of the country but software application Surfshark reported this week the Pakistan government was working to restrict VPN as well, which the company’s engineers were working to bypass. 

“Twitter (X) is working without VPN in #Pakistan,” journalist Shiraz Hassan said on X. 

A day earlier on Tuesday, Internet observatory group Netblocks said metrics showed X had remained restricted in Pakistan into a tenth day, “as the nation joins an exclusive set of countries that have imposed extended or permanent bans on international social media platforms.” 

Before the latest blockade, Pakistan experienced multiple Internet disruptions in recent weeks that made social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram inaccessible. Recent occurrences were on Jan. 20, Jan. 7 and Dec. 17, when Khan’s PTI party was holding virtual events. The government had blamed those disruptions on “technical glitches.” 

Such shutdowns have previously had a devastating impact on Pakistan’s economy. The day after Khan’s arrest in May last year, Reuters reported that point-of-sale transactions routed through Pakistan’s main digital payment systems fell by around 50 percent according to the region’s two largest payments system operators, 1LINK and Habib Bank Limited.

According to the Internet Society’s monitor Pulse, it is becoming an increasingly common tactic for governments to shut down the Internet on a national or sub-national level to either control civil unrest, stem the flow of misinformation, sway the results of general elections or to gain strategic advantages in territories with ongoing wars.

PM denies state responsibility for Baloch missing persons during Islamabad court appearance 

Updated 28 February 2024

PM denies state responsibility for Baloch missing persons during Islamabad court appearance 

  • Pakistan’s army, intelligence agencies deny carrying out enforced disappearances
  • Balochistan province is the site of a decades long low-level separatist insurgency 

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Wednesday the Pakistani state was not responsible for enforced disappearances, a recurring problem that is often blamed on security agencies in the country’s impoverished southwestern Balochistan province.

The prime minister issued the statement during an appearance before the Islamabad High Court in connection with a case regarding Baloch missing students.

Balochistan has long been plagued by enforced disappearances, with families saying men are picked up by security forces, disappear often for years, and are sometimes found dead, with no official explanation. Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies deny they carry out enforced disappearances.

Separatist groups like the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), the most prominent of several separatist groups operating Balochistan, have been fighting a decades long insurgency for independence for mountainous and mineral-rich Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by territory but the smallest in terms of population. Rights activists, political leaders and families say the insurgency has been used as a pretext to pick up innocent civilians, which the state denies. 

“It is not correct to consider the entire state guilty [for enforced disappearances in Balochistan],” Kakar was widely quoted by local media as telling the court, castigating state critics for not holding separatists and militants responsible when they killed innocent civilians and security officials. 

Balochistan borders Afghanistan to the north, Iran to the west and has a long coastline on the Arabian Sea. It has Pakistan’s largest natural gas field and is believed to hold many more undiscovered reserves. It is also rich in precious metals including gold, the production of which has grown over recent years.

Balochistan is a key location in China’s huge multi-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of President Xi Jinping’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Though separatists mostly target Pakistani security forces and state installations in Balochistan, they have also attacked Chinese workers and projects. 

In a rare statement on the issue in 2019, the military sympathized with families of missing Balochs but said some may have joined militant groups and “not every person missing is attributable to the state.”

Pakistan has repeatedly blamed India for fanning militancy in Balochistan, a charge New Delhi denies. 

Ex-PM Khan calls for nationwide election protests over alleged vote counting fraud on Saturday

Updated 28 February 2024

Ex-PM Khan calls for nationwide election protests over alleged vote counting fraud on Saturday

  • Khan’s PTI party claims it won from 179 national constituencies, though it was deprived of nearly 85 seats
  • The party has asked its followers and supporters to take to the streets in large number to protect its mandate

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party issued a protest call to its supporters on Tuesday, urging them to take to the streets and demonstrate against the alleged election manipulation following the February 8 polls.

Pakistan’s national polls were marred by a countrywide outage of cellphone networks and delays in the announcement of results by election authorities, leading to widespread suspicions of fraud during the vote counting process.

Several political parties, including the PTI, have been protesting against election irregularities, claiming the results were altered in favor of their opponents.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) denies these allegations.

“Imran Khan has given a message to all of Pakistan today from jail that there will be a protest against the theft of our mandate between 11 and 12am on Saturday,” PTI leader Sher Afzal Marwat said during a news conference.

“I have been assigned the responsibility of the protest in Islamabad,” he added. “We will start the demonstration from F9 Park and it will conclude at the Press Club. We will remain completely peaceful.”

Marwat maintained people had come out to vote for his party at a time when its candidates were not even allowed to run their campaign.

He said it was now everyone’s responsibility to protect that mandate by taking to the streets in large numbers.

The PTI leader claimed the politicians who were taking over power in Punjab and at the National Assembly had not even been elected on their seats.

Independent candidates supported by Khan’s party won over 90 seats and emerged as the single largest bloc in the National Assembly.

It says it can prove its victory from 179 national constituencies, though it was deprived of nearly 85 seats during the vote counting process.

On anniversary of shooting down Indian warplane, Pakistan says will ‘forcefully respond to aggression’

Updated 28 February 2024

On anniversary of shooting down Indian warplane, Pakistan says will ‘forcefully respond to aggression’

  • Pakistan downed Indian MiG-21 aircraft and captured its pilot after New Delhi ordered airstrikes in Balakot in 2019
  • Caretaker PM Kakar says his country is capable of protecting its territorial integrity against external aggression

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar praised the armed forces of Pakistan on the fifth anniversary of the downing of an Indian fighter jet in Kashmir on Tuesday, saying the incident demonstrated that his country was capable of protecting its territorial integrity in the face of any external aggression.

“Operation Swift Retort” was a military operation conducted by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27, 2019, in response to the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) airstrike in Balakot a day earlier.

The Indian attack was said to be in response to an attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, on February 14 which killed 40 of its paramilitary personnel.

The Indian authorities blamed the attack on its soldiers on a Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, leading to heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors and the attack in Balakot.

“Today marks the completion of five years of ‘Operation Swift Retort,’” the PM office circulated Kakar’s message. “We pay tribute to the professional skill and determination of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, who on this day debunked India’s claims, falsely and wrongly, by practically demonstrating their operational superiority.”

“There should be no doubt that Pakistan is a peace-loving country, committed to protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. “We will robustly respond to any aggression.”

During the operation, the PAF conducted airstrikes across the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed Kashmir region, targeting non-military sites to demonstrate its capability and resolve while avoiding human loss and escalation to a full-scale war.

The operation included an aerial engagement between Indian and Pakistani fighter jets, resulting in the downing of an Indian MiG-21 aircraft and the capture of its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, by Pakistani forces.

The pilot was later released as a gesture of peace by the administration in Islamabad.

Photos, vintage arms and medals: Museum in Pakistan’s Karachi pays homage to provincial police

Updated 28 February 2024

Photos, vintage arms and medals: Museum in Pakistan’s Karachi pays homage to provincial police

  • Sindh Police Museum tells story of the evolution of the provincial police force since when it was first set up in 1843
  • Police uniforms from different eras, swords, guns and shields, significant police orders and photos are on display

KARACHI: The Sindh Police Museum in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi is housed inside a single-story colonial-era building chock-full of rare artifacts like photos, uniforms, swords and guns that tell the story of the evolution of the provincial police force since when it was first set up in 1843.

The building, itself built in 1865, was turned into a museum in 2019. The photo gallery offers a visual journey into the history of Sindh Police, showing historical events like the guard-of-honor presented to the founder and first governor-general of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The artifacts section showcases police uniforms from different eras as well as swords, vintage communications equipment, medals and ceremonial shields as well as important and interesting orders from General Sir Charles James Napier, the British governor of Sindh. 

One name that repeatedly shows up during a tour of the museum is that of Edward Charles Martson, who was appointed by Sir Napier and served as the head of Sindh Police from 1848 to 1872, transforming it into a model department for other regions in the British-ruled Indian subcontinent.

Creating this museum collection has not been easy, said Shamim Ahmed, the in-charge of the museum.

“We had to search for relatives or descendants of [former] police officers, we searched for them and collected [these things],” he told Arab News in an interview this week. “The documents and files as well as the weapons were collected the same way.”

Old guns used by Sindh Police on display at the Sindh Police Museum in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 26, 2024. (AN photo)

Work on the project was started in 2010 by then Karachi police chief Saud Mirza and his team who sifted through the provincial archives department for almost a year to find important documents relating to the police department, according to the museum in-charge.

“What you’ve seen isn’t complete yet,” he told Arab News. “There are still some sections that we need to develop further.”

For now, the museum offers a glimpse into the history of the mounted and rural police force that helped maintain order in rural parts of Sindh as well as of the city police unit that now manages Karachi, the provincial capital and commercial hub of Pakistan.

One of the most interesting aspects of the display are colonial-era police reports written in the local Sindhi language. One, dated Jan. 3, 1883, narrates the tale of Umar Jaro, a resident of Sindh’s Thatta district, whose cherished cow was stolen and who rallied a seasoned tracker, locally called ‘jhogi’ or ‘puggy,’ and teamed up with Constable Bachal Shah of the British-era Sindh Police to track the culprit’s footprints and finally nail him at a house near Hyderabad.

Zulfiqar Rashidi, a former member of the core team that worked on the museum project, said British police officers deputed in Sindh had to pass a compulsory Sindhi language exam to show that they would be able to successfully police the area where people mostly communicated in the native language.

While the provincial police have modernized and received new weapons and training to combat crime, the language used in official documents remains the same, Rashidi said. 

“The columns of the FIR [first information report], whether old or new, show no significant changes. Look at the terms like location of incident, reporting time, time of occurrence, number of people involved, what was stolen, all these elements have remained consistent throughout,” Rashidi said, comparing Jaro’s 1883 police report with recent ones.

“Since our Sindh Police has a history, and quite an old one, all the records and information about the police, from the past to the present, have been gathered,” museum in-charge Ahmed said as he turned the pages of a compilation of old police documents.

“If we didn’t preserve them by establishing a police museum, all these things would have been lost in 20-25 years. No one would have any knowledge about these things.”