Man sentenced to death for beheading his girlfriend


A Pakistani court yesterday sentenced the scion of a wealthy industrial family to death for raping and beheading his girlfriend in a murder that sparked outcry over the brutality of women in the deeply patriarchal country.

Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, 30, attacked Noor Mukadam at his home in Islamabad in July last year after he refused her marriage proposal – torturing her with brass knuckles and using a ‘sharp weapon “to behead her.

Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of a former ambassador, had made repeated attempts to escape the sprawling mansion, but was blocked by two staff members.

“The main defendant has been sentenced to death,” Islamabad District Court Judge Atta Rabbani said.

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 complicity in murder.

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

The case provoked an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists, who took note of the pervasiveness of violence against women.

The shocking nature of the murder, involving a couple from the privileged elite of Pakistani society, has led to pressure for the trial to be concluded quickly in a country with a notoriously slow justice system and cases typically dragging on for years .

According to Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell, a group that provides legal aid to vulnerable women, the conviction rate for cases of violence against women is less than 3%.

Victims of sexual and domestic abuse are often too afraid to speak out and criminal complaints are often not properly investigated.

Zahir Jaffer, who could challenge yesterday’s verdict, was thrown out of court several times during the trial for his behavior.

He was frequently carried into proceedings on a stretcher or in a wheelchair, and his lawyers argued that he should not be deemed “mentally sane” – a move prosecutors said was intended to suspend the trial.

During a hearing, he claimed that someone else had killed Noor Mukadam at a “drug party” at his house.

During the interrogation of Shuakat Mukadam – a former ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan – Zahir Jaffer’s lawyer suggested that she was killed by her own family for having a relationship outside of marriage.

Prosecutions for sexual violence and assault frequently see the personal story of the female victim chosen according to Pakistan’s patriarchal mores – another reason why justice is scarce for women.

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