ISLAMABAD: The lawyers for the family of 27-year-old Noor Mukadam, who was murdered last July in a case that has gripped the nation, is all set to present its final arguments today, Tuesday, in one of the most-closely watched trials in recent Pakistani history.
Mukadam, the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, 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. The key suspect in the murder, Zahir 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. Police say a team from the counseling center was already at the crime scene when they arrived on July 20, having been summoned by Jaffer’s parents.
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 hearings.
At Monday’s hearing, the defense counsels for Therapy Works employees and Asmat Adamjee completed their final arguments, seeking exoneration for their clients.
“Hopefully, we will complete our arguments tomorrow, after which the honorable court will reserve the judgment and fix a date to announce it,” the Mukadam family’s counsel, Shah Khawar, told reporters after the court hearing.
At an earlier hearing, Jaffer, who initially confessed to the crime before police and the court, pleaded not guilty to the killing, saying he was innocent and wrongly implicated in the case. His lawyers also told the court that Mukadam had arranged a “drug party” at Jaffer’s residence on July 20 as his parents were away in Karachi, saying Jaffer fell unconscious from “overuse” of drugs and Mukadam was killed by someone else who had attended the party. At another hearing, the defense also asked the court to consider the possibility that Mukadam had been “honour killed” by her brother.
In his final arguments, Khawar rejected the defense counsel's charge of a “drug party” and the possibility of an honor killing: “The defense has concocted this story as there is no evidence of it.”
The counsel reminded the court that Jaffer had himself conceded the murder took place at his home and CCTV showed Mukadam had jumped from the first floor of the chief accused’s house but was prevented by staff from leaving the premises.
“Zahir Jaffer jumped from the terrace and locked Noor Mukadam inside the security guard's cabin,” the counsel said, adding that Jaffer’s photogrammetry test was also positive.
Khawar will complete his final arguments in the case today, Tuesday.
Earlier, Shahzad Qureshi, the counsel for five Therapy Works employees, rejected the allegations his clients had tried to erase evidence from the crime scene and pleaded the court to exonerate them.
He said police had seized a pistol, knife and other material from the crime scene, so there was no question of erasing evidence.
Therapy Works CEO Tahir Zahoor's counsel advocate Akram Qureshi said the prosecution had implicated his client in the case because he had been in contact with Zahir Jaffer's parents over the phone but this did not prove he was in any way involved in the murder, or its cover up.
“Our job is medical intervention and that’s why we were there,” he said. “There is no basis for the prosecution's allegation of tampering with the evidence.”
Advocate Qureshi said the prosecution had failed to present any evidence against his client except a call data record (CDR) report which was not admissible evidence in the absence of a voice record.
“They [Therapy Works employees] helped the police by tying up Zahir Jaffer [with a rope before the police arrived at the crime scene],” he said, adding that it was the Therapy Works employees who called the police.
He said the prosecution had failed to present any solid evidence against the Therapy Works CEO and employees, and sought the “benefit of doubt” for his clients.
Asmat Adamjee's counsel Asad Jamal said the prosecution’s whole case was based on “ill-intention.”
“We are accused of not informing the police about the murder, but the prosecution gave no evidence that we knew a murder was going to take place at our residence,” he said. “There is no basis of any case against Asmat Adamjee and Zakir Jaffer, therefore they should be released.”
The court will resume hearing the case today, Tuesday.