Pakistan reckons with its ‘gender terrorism epidemic’ after murder of Noor Mukadam

The Guardian – By Alia Waheed – Monday Aug 02, 2021

Victims’s family speak of their heartbreak as brutal killing sparks national debate on lack of progress to end violence against women.

The family of a 27-year-old woman who was allegedly tortured and beheaded by the son of a business tycoon have spoken of their devastation in a case that has pushed Pakistan to examine what has been called a “gender terrorism epidemic”.

Zahir Zakir Jaffer was arrested on suspicion of the pre-meditated murder of Noor Mukadam, the youngest daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat, after allegedly holding her captive for three days at his apartment in an upmarket area of Islamabad.

The case, involving two of the capital’s richest families, has shone a light on Islamabad’s elite, the offspring of landowners, politicians and business tycoons.

In a country where so-called “honour” killings are common practice, the brutality of the killing has forced Pakistan to confront its poor record on gender-based violence. In the World Economic Forum’s global gender index, the country is ranked 153 out of 156 countries, just above its Taliban-ravaged neighbour Afghanistan.

An artist and animal lover, Noor had just been commissioned to paint her first mural. As a child, Noor spent time in South Korea and Ireland due to her father’s diplomatic role. Friends described her as “down to earth and trusting”. She was concerned about human rights and had taken part in the Aurat march on International Women’s Day earlier this year.

Her father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam, said the family were heartbroken and called for the death penalty for her alleged killer.

“We are shocked and devastated and, as her parents, we are completely broken,” said Mukadam. “Everybody has to go from this world but to lose a child like this is difficult to take. She was so young and a gentle, kind girl.

“It’s not just our family who are grieving, but the whole of Pakistan. I have lost a daughter, but now we are fighting for all women because this could be anybody’s daughter or sister.

“People are all demanding he should be given the death sentence, so nothing short of that, because if people like this continue in society, these murders can happen to anybody.”

After being criticised for their silence on the murder, the Jaffer family issued a statement condemning the suspect.

“The Jaffer family extends its deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Noor Mukadam. We pray her soul rests in eternal peace. We know that no amount of time will bring back the joy you have lost nor ease your pain,” the statement read.

“Our shock and grief at this horrific act has led to a prolonged silence that we very much regret. However, we categorically condemn this atrocity and forever denounce Zahir and his actions,” it said.

During Covid lockdowns there has been a sharp rise in domestic violence, which many see as fuelled by the growth in religious conservatism and the government’s failure to tackle the issue. A much-lauded domestic violence bill was put on hold in early July after objections by the Council of Islamic Ideology, despite being passed by the National Assembly.

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Posted by Teri Perticone


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