ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani high court on Monday upheld the death sentence of convict Zahir Jaffer, who was found guilty by a lower court of murdering Noor Mukadam, the daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat in Islamabad.
In February 2022, a Pakistani court sentenced to death Pakistani-American Jaffer, a childhood friend of Mukadam, for beheading her in July 2021 in a murder that sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women in Pakistan.
Zahir Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, a cook at the family's home, and six employees of Therapy Works, a counseling center from where Jaffer had received certification as a therapist and where he was being treated at the time of the murder, were acquitted by the court. The counseling centre employees were present at the scene of the crime, Jaffer's house, when police arrived, having been called there by his parents reportedly to restrain him.
The trial court also gave Jaffer 25 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs200,000 for rape, ten years in jail with a Rs100,000 fine for abduction, and a one-year jail term for keeping Mukadam in illegal confinement. Two members of his household staff, Iftikhar and Jan Mohammad, got ten years in jail each. In March 2022, Jaffer approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to file an appeal against the sentence.
On Monday, the IHC upheld Jaffer's death sentence by the lower court and also enhanced his earlier life imprisonment sentence for raping the victim, to the death sentence. Meanwhile, the court also upheld the 10-year sentences of his two accomplices in the case.
"Alhamdulillah, I am satisfied because the main convict, Zahir Jaffer, has been awarded death sentence on two counts, on murder and rape," Shaukat Mukadam, the deceased's father, told Arab News. "I think this is a landmark judgment."
He said the judgment would give a clear message to people that "no one is above the law." However, he said the general opinion in Pakistan was that Jaffer's parents should also have been handed "some punishment."
"I will discuss with my lawyers and whatever is the future course of action to take, we will take that," Mukadam said in response to Arab News' question on whether he intended to appeal the court's earlier decision to discharge the convict's parents.
Shah Khawar, the lawyer representing the Mukadam family, told Arab News Jaffer has the right to appeal against the verdict at the Supreme Court of Pakistan within seven days.
He confirmed Jaffer's previous life sentence for raping Mukadam had been enhanced to the death sentence by the IHC. "Now, he has been convicted and confirmed to be hanged in two cases, one in the rape and one in the murder," Khawar said.
Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, with thousands more suffering brutal violence across the country. But few cases receive sustained media attention, and only a small fraction of perpetrators are ever punished.
The shocking murder, involving members of the privileged elite of Pakistani society, triggered an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists reckoning with pervasive violence. It also increased pressure for a swift conclusion of the trial, in a country known to have a sluggish justice system, where cases typically drag on for years.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more details come in