An Islamabad court on Thursday awarded the death penalty to prime accused Zahir Jaffer for murdering 27-year-old Noor Mukadam in one of the most high profile murder trials in Pakistan's history.
The court also convicted two household staff members of Zahir - Muhammad Jan and Muhammad Iftikhar, with 10 years imprisonment. It acquitted all other co-accused including Zahir's parents - Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee Jaffer, six employees of Therapy Works, a counselling and psychotherapy centre, namely, Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas. Therapy Works' CEO Tahir Zahoor was also acquitted.
The court sentenced prime accused, Zahir, to death under Section 302-B (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code and ordered him to pay a fine of Rs500,000 as compensation to the legal heir of the deceased under Section 544-A (expenses of complainants and witnesses ) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The court also sentenced the prime accused to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and imposed another fine of Rs100,000 under Sections 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) of the PPC.
Zahir Jaffer has also been convicted under Section 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) of the PPC with one year imprisonment.
Under section 376(1) (punishment for rape) of the PPC, the court sentenced Zahir to 25 years imprisonment with a fine of Rs200,000.
As per the court orders, the sentences of imprisonment awarded to Zahir shall run concurrently.
Muhammad Jan, 47, a co-accused in the case, has been sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs100,000 under Section 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of PPC read with Section 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) of PPC.
Muhammad Iftikhar, aged between 46 to 47, who is also a co-accused in the case, has been sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 under Section 109 (Punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of PPC.
The court also sentenced both the men to 10 year rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 under Section 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapped or abducted person) of PPC, and one month simple imprisonment under Section 176 (omission to give notice or information to public servant by person legally bound to give it) of PPC.
Judge Rabbani also sentenced both men to seven years rigorous imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 under Section 118 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life) of PPC.
As per the court orders, the sentences of imprisonment awarded to the two co-accused shall run concurrently.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Atta Rabbani announced the verdict which was reserved on Tuesday after continuous hearings of the case for over four months.
Noor was found beheaded at the residence of Zahir, son of a leading businessman, in Islamabad on July 20, 2021. On the complaint of the victim's father, former diplomat Shaukar Mukaddam, the police registered a first information report (FIR) against Zahir — who was arrested from the crime scene — and charged him under section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
In the FIR registered at Islamabad's Kohsar Police Station, the victim's father stated that on July 19 he had gone to Rawalpindi to purchase a sacrificial animal for Eidul Azha while his wife had gone to get clothes from her tailor.
When the couple returned home in the evening, they found their daughter Noor absent from their house in the federal capital.
The couple then tried to contact her on cellphone but it was switched off. Soon they started a search for their missing daughter. Later, Noor called her parents and informed them that she was travelling to Lahore with her friends and would return home in a day or two, according to the FIR.
Later, the complainant received a call from Zahir, whose family were their acquaintances, and informed Mukadam that Noor was not with him, read the FIR.
On July 20, the victim's father received a call from the police station at around 10pm, informing him that Noor had been murdered.
According to the FIR, police, then, took the complainant to Zahir's house in Sector F-7/4 Islamabad where Mukadam discovered that his "daughter has been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded".
Almost five days after the incident, the police arrested Zahir's parents— Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, and their three household staff — Jamil, Jan Muhammad and Iftikhar -- on July 25, over the allegations of hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime. They were all made a part of the investigation based on Mukadam's statement.
The next day, police claimed Zahir had confessed to the crime and his statement was being recorded. Till then Zahir was on physical remand at the Islamabad police station.
Except for Zahir, all co-accused were sent on judicial remand to Adiala Jail on July 27. Their applications for bail were submitted in the court.
On August 2, Zahir was also sent to Adiala Jail on judicial remand following the prosecutor's statement that the police had completed their investigation with regards to the suspect and that they no longer required his physical custody.
As the investigation of the case proceeded, in mid-August the police arrested six employees of Therapy Works, a counselling and psychotherapy centre, including its Chief Executive Officer Tahir Zahoor, for concealing evidence. The other five members of the centre namely Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas were also nabbed.
Following the reports that Zahir worked as a counsellor at Therapy Works, the federal capital administration sealed its office.
During the investigation of the case, it was also revealed that one of the employees of the centre was injured at the crime scene and then later admitted to a hospital for surgery.
It also came to light that the Therapy Works medical team visited the house on July 20 at the request of Zakir Jaffer as he wanted to admit Zahir to the centre for treatment.
Zahir's mother, Asmat Adamjee Jaffer, and six employees of Therapy Works, including its chief, are on bail, while Zahir, his father, Zakir Jaffer, and their three household workers are on judicial remand in Adiala Jail.
The police submitted an interim challan of the case in the court of Judge Rabbani on September 11 under section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The challan suggested that Noor's murder may have been avoided had Zakir Jaffer called the police instead of helping his son. Zahir informed his father about killing Noor and the latter told his son not to panic, and that he was sending his men to remove the body.
In the challan the police wrote that had Zakir informed the police in time, Noor's murder could have been avoided. The father helped his son, they say.
It further added that Zahir confessed to killing Noor and a DNA report confirmed she was raped before her murder. Zahir also told the police that he forcibly locked Noor in a room, told his guard not to let anyone in or let her out, Geo News quoted the challan in a news report.
The prime accused also hid the victim's mobile phone in another room which police retrieved several days after the murder, it added.
The police also wrote in the challan that the victim made multiple attempts to save her life from the illegal detention at Zahir's home but all proved unsuccessful. CCTV footage from the scene, which was leaked and aired on several news channels in mid-November, also proved Noor's unsuccessful attempt to escape the premises of the house where she was eventually murdered.
When the case entered in its final stages of the arguments, Advocate Sikandar Zulqarnain Saleem, who was representing Zahir, suggested that Noor could have been a victim of "honour killing" with her father Mukadam responsible for it.
Following the conclusion of arguments by defendants' lawyers and the complainant's lawyers and prosecutor, Judge Rabbani reserved the verdict on February 22 and announced that it would be issued on Thursday (today).