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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Remembering Noor Mukadam on Her 30th Birthday

Noor Mukadam's story has left an indelible mark on Pakistan, serving as a catalyst for change and a call to action.

On July 20, 2021, a horrifying crime shook Pakistan as 27-year-old Noor Mukadam, the daughter of a former diplomat, lost her life in a brutal murder in an upscale neighborhood of Islamabad. Noor’s tragic demise sent shockwaves through the nation, exposing the pervasive issue of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in society. As we commemorate what would have been Noor’s 30th birthday, it is a somber reminder of the urgent need to address and eradicate this deeply rooted problem.

Noor’s story is a stark reflection of the harrowing experiences endured by countless women and girls in our society. Held captive for two harrowing days, she suffered unspeakable torment, culminating in a gruesome end by decapitation. Her fate sadly mirrors the distressingly familiar narrative of abuse, violence, and murder that many women and girls face.

The alarming increase in reports of violence against women and girls is deeply troubling. They not only endure torment but often fall victim to brutal violence that leads to their untimely deaths. These crimes leave behind dismembered remains, causing immeasurable pain to the families of the victims who await justice. Forced marriages of young girls remain disturbingly prevalent, leading to physical and emotional tolls, such as anemia, malnutrition, poverty, social injustices, and inadequate medical care.

The Role of Civil Society, Media, and Public

In the face of these challenges, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working relentlessly to combat SGBV in impoverished and backward regions of Pakistan play a crucial role. Civil society, media, and individuals have emerged as essential pillars of support for the oppressed. They shine a light on these dark realities, raising awareness and prompting change. While cases like Noor Mukadam’s murder gain widespread attention and spark protests, it is vital to maintain this focus.

In the modern era, these platforms ensure that the plight of the helpless and oppressed is not forgotten, driving progress and change. However, the commitment to combat SGBV should not waver, from the initial spotlight on a case to its ultimate resolution. On Noor Mukadam’s birthday, let us make a collective pledge to comprehensively combat oppression and injustice. It is our shared responsibility to ensure that the suffering of young girls and women no longer goes unnoticed. We must stand unwaveringly committed to ending sexual and gender-based violence, taking action at all levels to ensure that the days of suffering come to an end.

The Noor Mukadam Trial

The trial of Noor Mukadam’s murder case exemplified the Pakistani criminal justice system’s capabilities and shortcomings. The accused, Zahir Jaffer, was swiftly arrested after the crime, setting the stage for one of the country’s most formidable legal battles. The trial officially began on October 12, and a verdict was reached just four months later, making it an unusually speedy legal process.

However, the rapid pace of this trial also highlights a significant flaw in the system: it often requires public pressure and extensive media coverage to ensure expeditious hearings. While Noor’s case received substantial public and government attention, countless other murder, rape, and abduction trials do not enjoy the same level of public scrutiny.

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The trial was based on circumstantial evidence, as there were no direct witnesses to the crime. The prosecution meticulously prepared and presented their case, relying on modern devices and scientific evidence, such as video footage and forensics. The defence attempted to exploit technicalities and procedural defects, but their arguments ultimately did not weaken the prosecution’s case.

The death sentence given to Zahir Jaffer awaits confirmation by a two-member bench of the high court, as required by law. While this case received widespread attention, it highlights the need for systemic improvements in the criminal justice system to ensure fair and expeditious trials for all, regardless of public interest.

Noor Mukadam’s story has left an indelible mark on Pakistan, serving as a catalyst for change and a call to action. It is a reminder that the fight against gender-based violence must continue, with a focus on strengthening the legal system, providing support to victims, and ensuring that justice is served swiftly and fairly. Let Noor’s memory be a driving force in the quest for a safer and more just world where no one else has to suffer as she did.