Socialite Who Beheaded a Diplomat’s Daughter Just Got Sentenced to Death

Zahir Jaffer tortured and beheaded Noor Mukadam last July, in a killing that sparked massive outrage over violence against women.
Rimal Farrukh
Islamabad, PK
Noor Mukadam, Zahir Jaffer, murder, beheading, death penalty, Pakistan
Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer convicted for murdering Noor Mukadam, the daughter of a former diplomat, arrives in a court before the case verdict in Islamabad on February 24, 2022. Photo: Farooq Naeem / AFP

A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a wealthy socialite who raped and beheaded a woman in the capital city of Islamabad last year. 

The verdict, which was announced on Thursday, comes months after 27-year-old Noor Mukadam’s body was found in the home of Zahir Jaffer, the son of a prominent business tycoon, in July. 

Police said Jaffer, 30, a Pakistani-American citizen, confessed to killing Mukadam for refusing his marriage proposal, although he later denied it. He was charged with raping, murdering, abducting and confining Mukadam, whose father is Pakistan’s former ambassador to South Korea.

Advertisement

“This case is for all the daughters of Pakistan,” the victim’s father, Shaukat Mukadam, told reporters outside the court after the sentencing on Thursday afternoon. “The society and media came to our side, the entire nation and the world was on our side.”

Jaffer was among 13 people indicted in October for their alleged  involvement in Mukadam’s murder. Those indicted included Jaffer’s parents, his household staff and employees of a local rehab who had been called instead of the police after Mukadam died. 

The police investigators who obtained footage from CCTV cameras installed in Jaffer’s house said shortly before her death, Mukadam tried to escape from Jaffer’s house by jumping from the second floor and fleeing through the main gate. 

Unable to open the locked gate, Mukadam hid inside a watchman’s room next to the gate, the footage showed. Jaffer is later seen breaking into the room and dragging Mukadam back into the house. Her body was discovered by police shortly after.

On Thursday, Jaffer was sentenced to death by hanging. Two members from Jaffer’s household staff were given 10-year prison sentences on charges of abetting, confining a kidnapped person and withholding information about a plan to commit an offence. 

Jaffer’s parents were acquitted from charges of aiding and abetting Mukadam’s murder. The rehab’s employees were also exonerated.

Advertisement

The case has captured the country’s attention for months and triggered widespread outrage and protests against instances of gender-based violence in Pakistan. 

But while Jaffer’s sentencing has been widely welcomed, many have condemned the acquittal of his parents, who were in contact with their son over the phone during the night Mukadam was killed and were later charged with “hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime.”

Many have questioned whether the couple’s acquittal, in contrast to the sentences handed out to Jaffer’s employees, was the result of class discrimination. Without providing evidence, they have accused Jaffer’s parents of flexing their wealth and connections to manipulate the judgment in their favour. Some have expressed apprehension that Jaffer could eventually be acquitted through appeals or that he would get life imprisonment instead.

Lawyers representing Jaffer and his parents did not respond to VICE World News’ requests for comment. 

According to the judgment, Jaffer’s parents were acquitted because of insufficient evidence. “There is no text message or transcript of the call to establish the actual conversation between the main accused and his parents,” read the court ruling. “Merely on the basis of telephonic connection alone…with their son it cannot be presumed that they passed on the instructions to kill Ms. Noor Mukadam or passed on the direction… to destroy the evidence.” 

Advertisement

But as far as the verdict on the household staff is concerned, many believe that the power dynamic at play between the employer and the employees should have been taken into consideration. 

“While the parents were acquitted based on the evidence that was produced in court, there should have been some nuance in the judgment around the house staff as well keeping in mind their class and that they had been under the influence of their employer,” lawyer Nighat Dad told VICE World News. 

Pakistan has more than 8.5 million domestic workers, many of whom are overworked, underpaid and vulnerable to physical and psychological abuse from employers. Systemic poverty, class inequality, illiteracy and rarely-enforced legal protections collide to enable rampant employer-based exploitation. 

“The trend that I have seen from law enforcement to the courts is a very different attitude towards people from the working class in comparison to people from the higher class,” Dad said. “This shows an internalised bias towards class in Pakistan which broadens this discrimination between working class and upper class folks.”

Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.