IT would not be an exaggeration to describe Pakistan as no country for women. This truth was underscored yet again earlier this week when the discovery of the bloodied, headless corpse of Noor Muqaddam shook the nation to the core.

The brutality of the murder, and society’s utter shock, notwithstanding, it is likely that this tragedy, like countless other anti-women crimes, will become just another statistic in a long list of patriarchal sins. Indeed, Noor’s case will be a test for the authorities in more ways than one. It is not simply about ensuring a strong prosecution team, foolproof evidence and a fair trial with a conviction and exemplary sentence being handed down to the perpetrator — something that is sorely missing in our criminal justice system. It will also be a test for prosecutors, investigators and witnesses to withstand the lure of money or the fear of clout that those who want a safe way out for the perpetrator may wield.

Meanwhile, the greatest test for society itself will be to look inwards and ask how we arrived at this point. How did the family of the suspected murderer, Zahir Jaffer, who has a possible criminal history that is said to have led to his deportation from the UK, not keep a vigilant eye on him, especially if he was mentally unsound as is being claimed? Indeed, it is dumbfounding that the suspect reportedly worked as a mental health counsellor at one controversial therapy clinic, where he received treatment. Was there complacency that his wealth and social standing would rescue him from any situation? Even one as horrifying as this? We have seen this sense of entitlement before in the Shahzeb Khan murder case some years ago. More recently, we have seen it in the early release of the man who stabbed Khadija Siddiqui 23 times in broad daylight in 2016.

Unfortunately, it is the second-class citizens who suffer most — and women in this country define that description. The fact that they are allowed to ‘exist’ at all may be some kind of a miracle given that practically every gender comparison shows the immense gap that exists between males and females. And the socioeconomic indicators are only the practical manifestations of a national opinion that sees women as unequal, sometimes as chattel, not important enough to be protected but fit enough to be blamed for all the atrocities they attract towards themselves.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021

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