In twist in Noor Mukadam murder case, prime suspect Zahir Jaffer pleads not guilty

Policemen escort Zahir Jaffer (C), a Pakistani-American man who went on trial accused of raping and beheading Noor Mukadam, after his court hearing in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 20, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 February 2022

In twist in Noor Mukadam murder case, prime suspect Zahir Jaffer pleads not guilty

  • Jaffer says someone killed the victim at a “drug party” held at his house and arranged by the deceased woman
  • Noor Mukadam, the daughter of a former diplomat, was found beheaded at Jaffer’s Islamabad house on July 20

ISLAMABAD: Zahir Jaffer, a prime suspect in last year’s grisly murder of 27-year-old Noor Mukadam, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to the killing, saying he was innocent and wrongly implicated in the case.

Mukadam, a former Pakistani diplomat’s daughter, was found beheaded in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood in July last year. The murder sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women. Jaffer was arrested from the crime scene, his residence, on the day of the murder and has since been in custody. 

Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six employees of Therapy Works, a counseling 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.

The trial for the case is now in the concluding stage at Islamabad’s district court, where additional sessions judge Atta Rabbani has been conducting the hearings. 

At Wednesday’s hearing, the judge handed over a questionnaire to all the accused in the case to give  written responses to the allegations against them. He also gave the accused the opportunity to defend themselves against the charges presented by the prosecution.

“I am innocent,” Jaffer pleaded. “My parents and I are being implicated in this case because the unfortunate incident took place at my home.”

At an indictment hearing in October last year, Jaffer had pleaded guilty to the crime, telling the court: “I accept I have committed this crime, now it’s up to you to punish or forgive me … We quarreled, and we both were angry, and this all happened.”

On Wednesday, however, Jaffer’s counsel Usman Gill informed the court that Mukadam had arranged a “drug party” at Jaffer’s residence on July 20 as his parents were away in Karachi.

Mukadam and Jaffer, along with their other friends, consumed drugs, he added.

“I was not in my senses due to the overuse of drugs,” Jaffer said. “When my senses came back, I found myself tied up in the lounge of my house.”

“I found out later that somebody in the drug party or someone else had killed Noor Mukadam,” he said. Jaffer also said he was “rescued” from the crime scene by some uniformed police officials. 

He said the plaintiff of the case, Shaukat Mukadam, the victim’s father, was an influential person who had managed to falsely implicate him in the murder of his daughter with the help of police.

Jaffer also requested the judge to allow him to present evidence to prove his innocence in the court.

Explaining his association with Mukadam, he said he had a “living relationship” with the victim and their families knew each other for a long time.

“I didn't have any contact with Noor Mukadam for the last six months,” Jaffer said. “She came to my residence on July 18 on her own and asked me to arrange a drug party but I refused.”

He said that she invited her friends to his place for the gathering as well.

Jaffer said the victim carried “a huge quantity” of drugs to his house, adding that his flight to the US was booked on July 19, though Mukadam insisted he should cancel it since she also wanted to go with him.

He said that she contacted her friends to arrange the money to book the flight.

To a question about a DNA report regarding her rape, he said the report came positive since “we were in a relationship with mutual consent.”

Earlier, all other accused including Jaffer’s household staff submitted their statements in the court and pleaded not guilty to the crime.

The court will now resume the hearing on February 14.

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

Updated 5 sec ago

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 6 min 14 sec ago

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.”

Pakistan urges intending Hajj pilgrims to refrain from political activities in Saudi Arabia 

Updated 28 February 2024

Pakistan urges intending Hajj pilgrims to refrain from political activities in Saudi Arabia 

  • Two Holy Mosques are places of worship and not arenas for political expression, Pakistan Ulema Council says 
  • Warns that raising slogans, flags or engaging in other irrelevant activities not allowed at Two Holy Mosques

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi has urged intending Hajj pilgrims to follow “codal formalities of Saudi Arabia in letter and spirit” during their pilgrimage and refrain from engaging in political activities while in the Kingdom, Radio Pakistan reported on Wednesday.

Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime religious duty for Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, is expected to run from June 14-19 this year.

“Ashrafi emphasized the Two Holy Mosques are the places of worship and not arenas for political expression or displays of nationalism,” Radio Pakistan reported. 

“He warned that raising slogans, flags or engaging in any other irrelevant activity is not allowed at the Two Holy Mosques and guarding their sanctity is obligatory upon Muslims.”

In April 2022, some Pakistani pilgrims who hounded and chanted slogans at then Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his delegation at the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah were arrested by Saudi authorities, the media director of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Islamabad had confirmed at the time, saying protesters had “disrespected” the sanctity of the holy mosque.

Videos circulating on social media at the time showed Pakistani pilgrims at the mosque chanting slogans of “chor” (thieves) as the prime minister and his delegation passed by. In another video, pilgrims could be seen heckling and chanting abusive slogans at federal ministers Marriyum Aurangzeb and Shahzain Bugti as the pair were escorted by Saudi guards. A pilgrim could also be seen pulling Bugti’s hair from behind.

Since the incident, Pakistani leaders and Hajj officials have issued several warnings reminding the country’s nationals to follow rules and avoid political sloganeering and other activities while in Saudi Arabia.