IHC rejects Zahir’s appeal against death sentence, converts his 25-year jail term to another death sentence


Noor Mukadam murder case

Zubair Qureshi

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday upheld the death sentence of Zahir Jaffer in the Noor Mukadam murder case. The court also converted his 25-year jail term into another death penalty.

A two-member division bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Sardar Ijaz Ishaq Khan announced the verdict which was earlier reserved on Dec 21, 2022.

In its judgment the court rejected Zahir Jaffer’s plea while also dismissing the pleas of his household staff Mohammad Iftikhar and Mohammad Jan both the co-accused in the case and facing 10 years in prison for abetting. They had also challenged the trial court’s February 2022 verdict.

Noor, 27, was found murdered at Jaffar’s residence in the capital’s upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20, 2021.

A first information report (FIR) was registered the same day against Zahir Jaffer — the primary accused who was arrested from the site of the murder — under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of the victim’s father, Shaukat Mukadam, who is a retired diplomat.

On Feb 24, 2022 an Islamabad sessions court sentenced Zahir to death and awarded 10-year imprisonment to two co-accused Mohammad Iftikhar and Jan Mohammad.

Zahir’s parents — father Zakir Jaffer and mother Asmat Adamji — as well as TherapyWorks personnel, were later acquitted by the trial court.

Following the verdict, Zahir had approached the IHC in March 2022 challenging his death sentence.

The court had reserved its verdict in December 2022 and announced it on Monday, March 13, 2023. Pakistan’s civil society and human rights activists have termed the verdict quite delayed but called it a victory of justice. This is a lesson well-served and a message well-delivered to all women harassers, they said.

Zahir was arrested after the murder was reported, his parents and household staffers were also taken into custody by police on July 24 over allegations of “hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime”. They were made a part of the investigation based on Noor’s father’s statement.

In his complaint, Shaukat had stated that he had gone to Rawalpindi on July 19 to buy a goat for Eid-ul-Azha, while his wife had gone out to pick up clothes from her tailor. When he had returned home in the evening, the couple found their daughter Noor absent from their house in Islamabad.

They had found her cell phone number switched off and started a search for her. Sometime later, Noor had called her parents to inform them that she was travelling to Lahore with some friends and would return in a day or two, according to the FIR. The complainant said he had later received a call from Zahir, whose family were their acquaintances. Zahir had informed Shaukat that Noor was not with him, the FIR said.

At around 10pm on July 20, the victim’s father received a call from Kohsar police station, informing him that Noor had been murdered.

Police had subsequently taken the complainant to Zahir’s house in Sector F-7/4 where he discovered that his “daughter had been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded”, according to the FIR.