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An Islamabad court is set to announce the verdict in the Noor Mukadam murder case today (Thursday) at 1:30pm - one of the most high profile murder cases in Pakistan's legal history.

Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani had reserved the verdict in concluding arguments by all parties at a hearing on Tuesday.

Background

Noor was found beheaded at the residence of Zahir Jaffer, 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).

More to follow