Pakistani-American gets death sentence for brutal murder

US national who is the son of one of Pakistan’s richest families is sentenced to death for raping and beheading diplomat’s daughter, 27, after she rejected his proposal

  • Zahir Jaffer brutally murdered Noor Muqaddam at his Islamabad home last year
  • Mukadam, 27, the daughter of a former ambassador made attempts to escape
  • The court heard 30-year-old Pakistani-American Jaffer tortured her with a knuckleduster, raped her, and used a ‘sharp-edged weapon’ to behead her
  • Jaffer comes from respected family. His father is a director of a trading company
  • In Pakistan, the conviction rate for violence against women is around 3 percent 

A US national has been sentenced to death for raping and beheading a diplomat’s daughter after she rejected his marriage proposal.

Zahir Jaffer, the son of one of the richest families in Pakistan, brutally murdered Noor Muqaddam, 27, at his home in Islamabad on July 20, 2021.

Security camera footage showed Mukadam, the daughter of a former ambassador, had made repeated attempts to escape the sprawling mansion but was blocked by two members Jaffer’s staff.

Zahir Jaffer (pictured Thursday leaving court), the son of one of the richest families in Pakistan, brutally murdered Noor Muqaddam, 27, at his home in Islamabad on July 20, 2021

Security camera footage showed Noor Mukadam (pictured), made repeated attempts to escape the sprawling mansion but was blocked by staff

The court heard that the 30-year-old Pakistani-American tortured her with a knuckleduster, raped her, and used a ‘sharp-edged weapon’ to behead her.

‘The main accused has been awarded the death sentence,’ said judge Atta Rabbani at the Islamabad district court.

Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, were found not guilty of attempting to cover up the crime.

The two staff members were sentenced to 10 years in prison for abetting murder.

‘I am happy that justice has been served,’ said Shuakat Mukadam, Noor’s father, while pledging to challenge the acquittal of Jaffer’s parents.

The case prompted an explosive reaction from women’s rights campaigners reckoning with the pervasion of violence against women.

The shocking nature of the murder, involving a couple from the privileged elite of Pakistani society, led to pressure for the trial to conclude swiftly in a country where the justice system is notoriously sluggish and cases typically drag on for years. 

According to the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, a group providing legal assistance to vulnerable women, the conviction rate for cases of violence against them is lower than three percent.

Targets of sexual and domestic abuse are often too afraid to speak out, and criminal complaints frequently not investigated seriously. 

The case prompted an explosive reaction from women’s rights campaigners reckoning with the pervasion of violence against women. Pictured: Women rights activists hold placards and candles during a protest rally against the brutal killing of Noor Mukadam, February 22

‘Convictions have been dismally low for victims… making today’s guilty verdict all the more significant,’ said Amnesty International South Asia campaigner Rimmel Mohydin.

The court verdict dictates Jaffer be ‘hanged by his neck till he is dead’, however he was also given a concurrent sentence of 25 years in prison for abduction and rape.

He will also be able to challenge Thursday’s verdict.

According to local reports, Jaffer belongs to a high-society family in Pakistan who founded a trading company in 1849 – Ahmed Jaffer and Company.

His father, Zakir, serves as a director of the company, according to his profile on LinkedIn. Jaffer’s mother Asmat is reportedly a housewife. 

Executions have rarely been carried out in Pakistan in recent years – and usually only involving terrorism cases – in part due to pressure from the European Union.

The last was in December 2019, according to the Justice Project Pakistan, making it likely Jaffer will only serve jail time, with remissions for religious holidays and good behaviour.

Jaffer was thrown out of court several times during the trial for unruly behaviour.

He was frequently carried into proceedings by stretcher or wheelchair, and his lawyers argued he should be found not ‘mentally sound’ – a manoeuvre prosecutors said was designed to have the trial suspended.

At one hearing he claimed someone else had killed Mukadam during a ‘drug party’ at his house.

Shuakat Mukadam, a former ambassador and father of the murdered Pakistani girl Noor Mukadam, speaks to the members of the media as he leaves a court after the case verdict in Islamabad, Pakistan, 24 February 2022

When questioning Mukadam’s father – a former ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan – Jaffer’s lawyer implied she was killed by her own family for conducting a relationship outside of marriage.

Prosecutions for violence and sexual assault frequently see the female victim’s personal history picked over according to Pakistan’s patriarchal mores – another reason why justice is rare for women.

According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch on Pakistan, ‘Violence against women and girls – including rape, murder, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage – is endemic throughout Pakistan. Human rights defenders estimate that roughly 1,000 women are killed in so-called ‘honour’ killings every year.’

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