Shaukat Mukadam and Noor Mukadam.
Shaukat Mukadam and his daughter Noor Mukadam. Image Credit: Supplied

Noor Mukadam was murdered on July 20, 2021.

Noor’s father Ambassador (Retd) Shaukat Ali Mukadam was the first one in her family to see her decapitated body. His life changed forever. As did that of his wife Kauser. His older daughter Sara. His son Mohammad Ali. Unimaginable is the effect on the Mukadam family of the indescribably brutal murder of their Noor. Unimaginable is how they felt when they saw their Noor’s mutilated body. Unimaginable is how they buried their Noor. Unimaginable is what they went through during the months-long trial to have justice for their Noor.

It was a murder most foul that shook and enraged Pakistan and elicited a collective demand for justice for Noor and all victims of methodical violence. Pakistan united in its grief for Noor and its hope for justice.

On July 21, 2021, one day after Noor’s murder, the “suspect” Zahir Jaffer—who was found with Noor’s blood on his clothes and the murder weapon in his room—was arrested. Ambassador Mukadam filed the complaint, and an FIR, under Section 302 (premediated murder), was registered against Jaffer and his accomplices. On July 25, 2021, Jaffer’s parents, and two members of their household staff were arrested on the charges of abetment and concealment of evidence.

On July 26, 2021, Zahir Jaffer confessed to murdering Noor Mukadam.

On August 15, 2021, the owner and five personnel of Therapy Works (a mental health counselling and rehab centre) were arrested on the charge of concealment of evidence. On August 23, 2021, all six of them were granted bail and released. On October 24, 2021, the court indicted Jaffer and the eleven co-accused: Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee; their household staff—Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel; five Therapy Works employees—Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq, and Samar Abbas; and Therapy Works CEO Tahir Zahoor. Post-indictment, all of them pleaded “not guilty”.

Reportedly, it was during the proceeding of the indictment when Zahir Jaffer addressed Ambassador Mukadam, begging for forgiveness: “My life is in danger. Have mercy on me.”

On October 18, 2021, Jaffer’s mother was granted bail. On October 20, 2021, the trial for Noor’s murder began.

On January 5, 2022, the court rejected the defence’s plea for formation of a medical board to determine Jaffer’s mental health to “get rid of criminal liability.” On January 15, 2022, Noor’s father, in his testimony in court, demanded death penalty for his daughter’s murderer. On February 9, 2022, Jaffer claimed of being falsely implicated in Noor’s murder, claiming that it was someone else who had murdered her in a party—the evidence of that party having taken place is non-existent—that she held at his place on the day of her murder.

On February 24, 2022, Zahir Jaffer was sentenced to death. His household staff, security guard Iftikhar, and gardener Mohammad Jan, two of the co-accused, were given ten-year sentences. Jaffer’s parents and Therapy Works employees were acquitted.

Noor Mukadam
Noor Mukadam with her family. Image Credit: Supplied

Day after day, hearing after hearing, Ambassador Mukadam sat in that courtroom listening to the prosecution and defence lawyers present their case. Often, he spoke to media and in vigils and rallies that were held to express solidarity for Noor and demand justice for her. On social media, there were malicious attacks on his murdered daughter’s character. In court, he had to bear more unfounded assumptions and insinuations about his daughter. But in those long months—from Jaffer’s arrest to the court’s verdict—Ambassador Mukadam showed how a man of substance behaves even during a nightmarish ordeal.

He never flinched, there were no angry outbursts, he did not ever let go of his self-control, and not for a moment, he stopped believing in the power of justice.

Whenever I read about Noor’s case, my mind invariably went to her father sitting in that courtroom. During Jaffer’s trial, Ambassador Mukadam’s stoicism was a stellar lesson in courage and grace. Facing the murderer of his daughter, countless times, he chose to remain silent, dignified, his head held high, hopeful of justice, his heart full of love for his daughter Noor.

For Gulf News, I asked Ambassador Shaukat Ali Mukadam a few questions:

The last one year, after Noor, what has it been like?

We spent the last one year, after Noor, in profound pain and loss. We miss Noor all the time. This year’s Ramzan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, dinner times, family get-togethers, without Noor, everything was devoid of any happiness. Since that fateful night, July 20, 2021, when she was murdered, her absence has left a vacuum in our family, which cannot ever be filled.

During the hearings of the murder case, what was the most difficult aspect of being in that courtroom?

As you know, it was a long and a painful process—attending the countless proceedings of the session court, on windy days, in rain, in freezing winter, early in the morning. This was my first ever experience of being in a court. There is hardly any place to sit in the cramped session courts, and most of these courtrooms are in a very dilapidated condition. But it was good to see that the Additional Session judges used to come by 8:30am, punctually. And in those small courtrooms, they listened to the grievances of people and administered justice.

The most difficult aspect was the period when the trial was being conducted. In every hearing, I could see the murderer of my daughter, Zahir Jaffer, and his parents, and the other accomplices—watchman, gardener—who had played an active role in the murder of my Noor. But I had to patiently wait for the legal process to take its own course. Seeing them all was very difficult, but I could not do anything but wait patiently.

Do you think the verdict was delayed?

The trial was conducted on a priority basis, after specific directions for the early disposal of the case by the Islamabad High Court, but the same directions were extended twice. Now the matter is again pending with the Islamabad High Court. The next hearing is expected before a two-member bench on September 14, 2022. We hope that the Islamabad High Court will also conclude the case as soon as possible.

As this case created immense commotion, fear, and uncertainty in the minds of people of Pakistan and Pakistanis living elsewhere, families, especially, mothers and daughters, are anxiously waiting to see that real justice is done, both in the case of Jaffer and his accomplices. A precedent must be set. What happened to Noor must not ever happen to any female.

What was your first thought after the announcement of the verdict?

Acquittal of all the co-accused—other than the two household workers who were sentenced—astounded me.

Is there any facet of the case that you think is inadequate in your family’s hope of justice for Noor?

From the first day, I have a firm belief in the Almighty Allah, and then in our judicial system. And till today, my family and I believe that ultimately, justice will be done.

What is your message for families of female victims of violent crimes, abuse, or murder?

The message is simple. Getting justice could be a long and uphill task, so people should have courage and patience to fight for justice for their daughters, sisters, other female family members. I am fighting this case for the safety of all daughters of Pakistan. They should be safe in their homes, their offices, while driving cars, in universities, in hostels, in parks. Pakistani women are highly educated and enlightened; twice, we had a lady prime minister; we had a female Speaker of the National Assembly; a lady has risen to the rank of lieutenant general of Pakistan Army Medical Corps. Our women are flying commercial planes and fighter jets. And therefore, it is imperative that women of Pakistan, who comprise half of the population, must not lead their lives under fear and oppression.

I await justice from the honourable Islamabad High Court. Law should be active and implemented for speedy justice so that it sends a strong message to instil confidence in women of Pakistan.

One year after Noor, how is your family doing now?

As I stated earlier, we spent the last year in grief. We were devastated. But we feel that we have to believe in the will of Allah, in fate. We are trying to console ourselves. The most satisfaction we get is by continuing the good work Noor used to do. We are digging wells in different communities, building a mosque in her name, and helping orphans. Noor had a very soft heart; she not only loved and respected human beings, but also animals. We found solace in the work that was important to her.

Noor calligraphy
Noor had a special passion and gift for art and calligraphy. Image Credit: Supplied

We were amazed to find out that many people, complete strangers, were digging wells in Noor’s name. They were distributing food and performing umra for her.

Noor loved to help the underprivileged. Even on her birthdays, she used to collect her gifts, take her friends with her, go to orphanages, and distribute the gifts among children. She loved social work.

Noor had a special passion and gift for art and calligraphy. Her calligraphy and other artwork reflected her love for the Almighty Allah and her soft, empathetic heart.

She had written the ninety-nine names of the Almighty Allah in a diary; we had those names framed. Along with her other artwork, her calligraphy was displayed in an exhibition at the Pakistan National Council of Arts. The event was attended by her friends, diplomats, media, and a cross section of people in Islamabad. Jamal Shah was the curator, and Muniba Mazari paid a heart wrenching poetical tribute to Noor.

May my Noor’s soul rest in the highest place in janaat-ul-firdous.