On February 24, Zahir Jaffer was sentenced to death by hanging for the 2021 high-profile rape and murder of Noor Muqaddam in Pakistan, reports The Guardian. The killing of Muqaddam has been front page news in Pakistan since its occurrence, due to the upper-class status of both individuals. Muqaddam, the daughter of former Pakistan diplomat Shakaut Ali Muqaddam, and Jaffer, the son of one of the wealthiest industrial families in Pakistan, had known each other for most of their lives, as they had grown up in high society with the same circle of friends, reports BBC News.
On July 20, 2021, Jaffer held Muqaddam hostage for two days at his family home, BBC News adds. CCTV footage obtained by Pakistani police shows Muqaddam attempting to escape multiple times. One of those attempted escapes seen on the footage shows Muqaddam jumping from a first-floor window and subsequently being dragged back into the Jaffer family home, where Jaffer eventually tortured, raped, and beheaded her. Jaffer did not deny murdering Muqaddam, saying he killed her because she had refused to marry him, continues BBC.
Along with Jaffer, , two of his employees were sentenced to 10 years in prison for abetting in Muqaddam’s murder, reports NBC News. The sentencings were a relief to Muqaddam’s family and for women throughout Pakistan. Noor’s father, Shakaut Ali Muqaddam, called the verdict “a victory for justice.” Mr. Muqaddam’s lawyer commented on the verdict saying, “justice has been served and today’s Pakistani women will be empowered.”
According to NBC News, the death sentence of Zahir Jeffer is a milestone for Pakistani women, as only a fraction of cases involving violence against women result in the perpetrator being punished. The conviction rate in Pakistan for cases of violence against women is less than 3 percent, reports The Guardian. Thousands of cases of violence against women, including rape, murder, domestic violence, acid attacks and forced marriages, go unreported each year. Women and young girls are left vulnerable to attacks and assault due to Pakistan’s lack of laws criminalizing domestic abuse and violence, adds CNN.
Since Muqaddam’s death was made public, Pakistani women have been protesting and speaking out about the need for change in the country’s criminal justice and legal system. Activists have used Muqadam’s death to call on Parliament to enact legislation that would imprison offenders for committing acts of violence and abuse against women and children, continues CNN. Women’s rights activists have been outspoken about the importance of protecting Pakistani women from violence over the past few years, as violence against women has only increased.
According to Al Jazeera, activists have started to call the frequent crimes against women “femicide” in an attempt to reach an international audience. CNN reports that in 2020, legislators introduced The Pakistan Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill. If passed, the bill would define domestic violence and establish a system of protection and rehabilitation for women who are vulnerable to or who have experienced domestic abuse, states The Library of Congress. The main obstacle against the bill’s is the Council of Islamic Ideology, a conservative, all-male group that has been criticized for upholding archaic and patriarchal views, continues CNN. Their influence on the Pakistani legal system has prevented Pakistani women from having the same rights as their male peers.
The brutal killing of Noor Muqaddam serves as an eye-opener into the flaws of the Pakistani legal system against women. Women across Pakistan and beyond are hopeful that the death of Noor Muqaddam will inspire Pakistani leaders to create laws that protect women from domestic abuse and violence. In the eyes of many women, if an affluent diplomat’s daughter is not safe from violence, then no woman in Pakistan is safe.