A most foul murder last week in Islamabad, the capital city, has shaken the nation and centred attention on taboo issues like psychological disorders, drug abuse, child upbringing and parenting.
Noor Mukadam, 27, the daughter of a former ambassador who served the country with distinction, fell victim to the brutality of a young man from one of Pakistan’s leading business families at his home in the presence of servants and some of his family members.
A leaked audio tape of the assessment of therapists, who are also his colleagues (since he himself had a licence for counselling), suggests that his doctors were called before the police arrived at the scene of the crime and they witnessed the alleged murders’ friends gathered around the house and acting all normal.
Upon breaking the door of the first-floor room, from where the victim had earlier tried to escape but was dragged back in by her tormentor, they found the decapitated body and a blood-soaked person playing with the head. The audio, whose contents are verified by the police assessments, also suggests that the alleged murderer attacked and injured the team member but was overpowered.
The lead psychiatrist is heard regretting his decision to have wrongly assessed the murderer to have made behavorial progress.
He is also heard sharing with his colleagues the background of the attacker who apparently had a long history of drug abuse and violent conduct that did not spare even his mother but which was all wrapped in silence through influence-peddling and use of the family’s wealthy status. The police investigations claim that the person was in his senses when he was arrested and in custody comes across as “normal”.
Nation wide sympathy
There has been a flood of support for the bereaved family and Justice for Noor has been one of the top trends in Pakistan.
The former ambassador’s colleagues, human rights bodies, leading newspapers, politicians and celebrities have all spoken with one voice on the heart-wrenching incident and its implications for the society. Some have expressed the apprehension that the alleged murderer, a dual national, might not get due punishment.
On the first day of the accused’s appearance in the local court, the father of the killed girl had to wait for four hours to see the case start. Such tactics, the critics say, are used to exhaust the complainant.
They also point out that the first information report that forms the basis of the case, is registered under clauses that allow for an out of the court settlement. Police First Information Reports (FIRs) are notorious for wrecking solid cases and for inserting technical flaws that eventually play to the advantage of the accused at the cost of the victim.
Investigators however are quick to point out that these apprehensions are unfounded. They say that the murder weapon, a knife and iron-knuckle that the accused used to torture the victim before slaughtering her, has also been found.
The parents of the boy have been arrested and the office of his therapists has been sealed, following the leaked audio. The beastliness of the crime and the family’s enormous wealth, however, do not let such anxieties go away.
(The father of the accused told media that he “condemns this incident.” “I would like justice to prevail in this case. My sympathies are with the parents of the girl," he was quoted as saying by the local media).
Meanwhile, a district and sessions court in Islamabad on Monday granted extension in physical remand of the main suspect in Noor Mukadam murder case.
None sticking their neck out
Incredible as it may sound, the accused was called by educational institutions to deliver lectures on, of all the subjects, adolescence and self-care and received praise for his contribution to society.
His circle of friends, for whom he threw parties infamous for orgies, goes far and deep and while no one is sticking their neck out for him, many among them are concerned that the investigations are likely to reveal their links with his dark world.
Of no less importance is the fact how his parents and close relatives did nothing to warn others of the dangers of being around him and developing close relations with him. Despite being a danger to society, he operated smoothly in a system that allowed him to indulge at will and play out his fetishes with impunity. The murder has also raised the issue of women vulnerability.
As pointed out by Pakistan People’s Party Vice President and Chair Foreign Affairs Senate Standing Committee, Senator Sherry Rehman, “this is not a one-off case and there must be justice for Noor and all other girls who have been violated or wronged, let alone killed”.
“In a span of two weeks, there have been multiple cases of violence against women. With such incidents happening on a daily basis, it is important for us to discuss why the domestic violence bill is needed in Pakistan,” she added.
She also cited Khadija Siddiqi’s case who was stabbed 23 times, but whose attacker has been now granted remission on the account of donating blood and on payment of the requisite fines.
He did not even get to complete his 5-year jail sentence. "Pakistan ranks at the 151st position out of 153 countries at the Global Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum. There are countless cases which do not get reported or make it to social media”.
The government for its part points out that these are long-standing issues and require national consensus to be tackled firmly.
For now, however, all national attention is riveted on how the Noor Mukadam murder inquiry will proceed and how long will it take for her parents and loved ones to get some comfort that their dreamy-eyed darling daughter’s killer has met his deserved fate.
Syed Talat Hussain is a prominent Pakistani journalist and writer. Twitter: @TalatHussain12