Tycoon’s son sentenced to death in Pakistan for rape and murder

A Pakistan court sentenced the scion of a wealthy industrialist family to death for raping and beheading his girlfriend in a murder that sparked an outcry over the brutalizing of women in the deeply patriarchal nation.

Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, 30, attacked Noor Mukadam at his Islamabad home last year after she refused his marriage proposal — torturing her with brass knuckles and using a “sharp-edged weapon” to behead her.

Noor Mukadam

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

“The main accused has been awarded the death sentence,” said Judge Ata Rabbani, who sentenced Jaffer to be hanged after a lengthy trial that began in October 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 Shaukat Ali Mukadam, Noor’s father, while pledging to challenge the acquittal of Jaffer’s parents. “Today, an exemplary punishment has been given to the main accused. Today, my daughter’s soul will be content to some extent. We are happy as far as the principal accused is concerned.”

The case, involving two of the capital’s richest families, put a spotlight on the offspring of wealthy landowners, politicians, and business tycoons while prompting an explosive reaction from civil rights advocates reckoning with pervasive 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.

In a country where so-called “honor” killings are common practice, the brutality of the murder forced Pakistan to confront its poor record on gender-based violence.

In the World Economic Forum’s global gender index, Pakistan is ranked 153 out of 156 countries, just above its Taliban-ravaged neighbor Afghanistan.

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

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

Jaffer, who will be able to challenge Thursday’s verdict, was thrown out of court several times during the trial for his behavior.

He was frequently carried into proceedings by stretcher or wheelchair, and his lawyers argued he should be found not “mentally sound” — a maneuver prosecutors said was designed to suspend the trial.

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

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.

recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said: “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 ‘honor’ killings every year.”

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