On February 24, a court in Islamabad sentenced Zahir Jaffer to death for the murder of Noor Muqaddam. Jaffer’s servants were sentenced to 10 years in jail, while his parents were not charged and were acquitted by the court. The case has garnered global following, and hogged the limelight in Pakistan, with its verdict being eagerly anticipated.
The murder of Noor was brought to the spotlight by social media users, after friends of the victim started a trend in the aftermath of her brutal murder at the hands of Jaffer in his house in Islamabad. Following the uproar, the government announced a speedy trial for the murder. The verdict came after eight months.
Commenting on the verdict, Noor’s father Shaukat Muqaddam said: “I was expecting a favorable decision and I am glad that the court took the right decision.” He further added that he hopes the murderer of his daughter will be sentenced and the rule of law will prevail.
Observers point to a couple of critical points in the case. First, many critics argue that the case rose to the limelight, and death sentence was given to the murderer, because Noor’s father is a powerful man, an ex-envoy of Pakistan. Second, many insist that courts sprung to action because of the attention the case had received on media – both traditional and social.
Sceptics say the verdict could have been different if these factors were not in play. They point to how Qandeel Baloch’s murderer was released from jail: using a technicality, after Qandeel’s mother pardoned the brother of the social media personality.
The killer’s lawyer said: “The court acquitted my client after his parents said they had forgiven him.”
Sceptics point to the lack of a powerful entity or personality who could follow the case. Being from an unprivileged section of the society, many question if the mother had any other option but to forgive her son.
Then there was case of Khadija Siddique, who was stabbed 23 times by her boyfriend after they broke up. He had been sentenced to seven years in prison, which was then reduced to two years as the court said it cannot “rely completely on statement of the victim.” However, the Supreme Court took the notice and restored the punishment.
The attacker was released three days before the murder of Noor Muqaddam. Commenting on the release, Siddique said: “Lack of expertise and lack of proper training of investigating officers leads to faulty investigations. Crucial evidence is not collected, it’s usually discarded, or it is delayed to such an extent that it loses its evidential value in the court.”
Pakistan currently stands at 153rd position out of 156 countries on the gender equality index and this is enough to show the plight of women in the country. According to a UN estimate only 1-2.5% cases of crimes against women reach conviction, underlining how a huge majority decided to remain silent.
Therefore, even though many laud the decision in Noor Muqaddam case, but there is still the looming feeling that there is a long way to go for Pakistan to address violence against women.