Justice for Noor: A timeline of how one of the country's most high-profile murder cases unfolded

The murder took place on July 20, 2021 and the verdict was announced on Feb 24, 2022 — here's what happened in between.
Published September 22, 2021

This article was originally published on September 22, 2021.

Pakistan saw numerous cases of harassment and violence against women in 2021, each equally horrifying. One, however, stood out for its sheer brutality and shook the nation’s conscience: the gruesome murder of Noor Mukadam.

On July 20, 2021, Noor, the 27-year-old daughter of former ambassador Shaukat Mukadam, was found murdered at a residence in Islamabad. At the time, police said she was “slaughtered” after being shot at.

As the horrifying details of the murder started to emerge, Pakistanis protested both online and in person, demanding #JusticeforNoor.

A year after Noor’s gruesome murder, Dawn.com takes a look at how the case unfolded:

July 21, 2021: Zahir Jaffer arrested

Police arrested Zahir Zakir Jaffer — the son of a leading businessman — for his alleged involvement in the murder and obtained three-day physical custody.

A first information report (FIR) had been registered a day earlier, nominating Zahir and others, under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of Noor’s father.

In the FIR, Shaukat said police took him to Zahir’s house where he discovered that his “daughter has been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded”.

He sought the maximum punishment under the law against Zahir for allegedly murdering his daughter.

July 23, 2021: Investigators approach US, UK for criminal record

As people posted about Zahir’s alleged violent tendencies in the past on social media, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Investigation Attaur Rehman said they had written to the relevant authorities to approach the US and UK for obtaining Zahir’s criminal record to “verify information about his involvement in sexual harassment and rape cases in the UK, which led to his deportation from the country”.

July 24, 2021: Physical remand extended for 2 days

The investigation officer, during a hearing, informed a local court that police had recovered a pistol, knife and knuckleduster from the accused after he was taken into custody. Zahir had tortured Noor with the knuckleduster before beheading her, the official said.

The court extended Zahir’s physical remand for two days.

July 25, 2021: Police arrest Zahir’s parents, household staff

Police broadened the scope of the investigation, adding that four more sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, mainly related to abetment and concealing evidence, in the FIR and arrested Zahir’s parents, as well as the family guards.

Meanwhile, the capital administration sealed the office of Therapy Works — where Zahir reportedly worked as a counsellor.

  An official of the capital administration seals the office of Therapy Works on the orders of Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat in Islamabad. — White Star/File
An official of the capital administration seals the office of Therapy Works on the orders of Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat in Islamabad. — White Star/File

July 26, 2021: Zahir confesses to killing Noor

Police claimed Zahir had confessed to the crime and his statement was being recorded. The suspect’s physical remand was further extended by two days.

July 27, 2021: Police recover mobile phones

The investigating officer said mobile phones of both Zahir and Noor were recovered from the former’s residence, along with other evidence.

Zahir’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, and the household staff were presented in court after the end of their two-day physical remand. They were then sent to Adiala jail for judicial remand.

Bail applications for all four of them were submitted.

July 28, 2021: Zahir’s physical remand extended for 3 days

During the next hearing, the state prosecutor requested the court to grant another three-day remand of the primary suspect as he, along with the CCTV footage, had to be transported to Lahore for the forensic analysis of the video.

The court, after hearing the arguments, granted the extension.

Separately, the Jaffer family issued a statement, saying “we categorically condemn this atrocity and forever denounce Zahir and his actions.”

July 30, 2021: Polygraph, other tests conducted

Zahir underwent a couple of tests, including a polygraph, at the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), Lahore, to verify his statements and evidence collected in connection with the murder.

Mobile phones of Zahir and Noor were also sent to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to unlock them for forensic tests and retrieval of deleted data.

July 31, 2021: Two-day extension in physical remand

A court extended Zahir’s physical remand by two days after the prosecution asked for more time to investigate “new details and characters” seen in the CCTV footage.

Aug 2, 2021: Zahir remanded in judicial custody for 14 days

A district and sessions court in Islamabad remanded Zahir to judicial custody for 14 days after the prosecutor told the court that police had, for now, completed their investigation with regards to the suspect and that they no longer required his physical custody.

  Zahir Jaffer, the alleged killer of former diplomat’s daughter Noor Mukadam, is brought to a court in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File
Zahir Jaffer, the alleged killer of former diplomat’s daughter Noor Mukadam, is brought to a court in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV/File

Aug 5, 2021: Bail pleas of Zahir’s parents rejected

The bail applications filed by Zahir’s parents were rejected, with the court noting in its “tentative assessment” that the suspects “not only caused abetment but also made utmost efforts to wipe off evidence”.

Days later, their judicial remand, along with that of their staff, was extended for two more weeks.

Aug 14, 2021: DNA, fingerprints show involvement in murder

Police claimed that Zahir’s DNA test and fingerprints, conducted in the previous month, showed his involvement in the murder.

They said that photogrammetry tests conducted on a video in which Noor was seen making efforts to save her life and being chased by the accused confirmed that it was genuine.

Aug 15, 2021: Therapy Works owner, 5 employees arrested

A court remanded six officials of Therapy Works, including owner Tahir Zahoor, to day-long physical custody after police arrested them for “concealing evidence”.

Aug 23, 2021: All 6 people are granted bail

A little over a week after their arrests, all six officials were granted bail and directed to submit bonds of Rs5 million each.

In another development, the judicial remands of Zahir’s parents and employees were extended till Sept 6.

The probe seemed to be progressing slowly as investigators failed to submit the challan to court despite the expiry of the legal deadline almost a week earlier.

Aug 26, 2021: Noor’s father approaches court against grant of bail

Noor’s father, Shaukat Mukadam, submitted a petition with the Islamabad High Court, challenging the grant of bail to six employees of Therapy Works, including its owner.

Sept 1, 2021: Zahir Jaffer’s father sought Therapy Works’ help

During the course of investigation, it was revealed that Zahir informed his father on July 20 about what he had done to the victim, and in response, the suspect’s father contacted Therapy Works, seeking their help in getting his son out of the house.

Officials said the suspect’s father asked employees of Therapy Works to shift him to their clinic and declare that he was a patient as this would make his defence strong.

Separately, the owner of Therapy Works submitted an application in a local court for registration of a criminal case against Zahir for attacking and injuring a member of his team.

Sept 4, 2021: Zahir was alcoholic, not insane: Therapy Works CEO

Therapy Works Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tahir Zahoor Ahmed, in a press conference, said Zahir, the alleged killer of Noor, was alcoholic but not insane.

The CEO said Zahir came to Therapy Works in 2013 to get physiotherapy training. At that time, he showed no sign of any disease, he added.

Sept 9, 2021: Police submit challan

Police submitted the challan to a sessions court in Islamabad. Additional Sessions Judge Atta Rabbani said copies of the challan would be distributed in the next hearing on September 23 once all suspects were present.

The court extended the judicial remand of Zahir, his parents and three of their household staff till the next hearing as well.

According to the challan, Noor lost six life-saving opportunities due to the active connivance of the accomplices of the principal accused, Zahir, in her murder.

“Her life could have been saved had the accomplices acted otherwise,” it noted.

Sept 13, 2021: Noor’s friends protest outside IHC

As the Islamabad High Court took up the post-arrest bail petitions of Zahir’s parents, Noor’s friends held a protest outside the court premises and demanded justice.

 Friends of slain Noor Mukadam stage a protest outside the Islamabad High Court. — Photo by Tahir Naseer
Friends of slain Noor Mukadam stage a protest outside the Islamabad High Court. — Photo by Tahir Naseer

Sept 17, 2021: Counsel for Zahir’s parents concludes arguments

The counsel for Zahir’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, concluded his arguments on their bail petitions in the murder case.

During the hearing, the judge remarked that it appeared that the police did not know how to link clues during interrogation.

Sept 22, 2021: Noor’s family, friends hold vigil

On the eve of the expected commencement of Noor’s murder trial, her family, friends and civil society activists organised a vigil outside the Islamabad Press Club.

Noor’s father and sister attended the protest with placards — it was the first time the family had gathered together to speak to the public.

Sep 23, 2021: Court distributes copies of challan

The court set October 6 for framing of charges against 12 suspects, including Zahir Zakir Jaffer, his parents Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, three household staff Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel and six Therapy Works employees including Tahir Zahoor, Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas.

Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani presided over the hearing in which copies of the challan were distributed among the present suspects.

Sept 29, 2021: IHC rejects bail petitions of Zahir’s parents, orders trial to be completed in 8 weeks

The Islamabad High Court dismissed the bail petitions filed by Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee and ruled that they would remain in jail until the completion of the trial.

Oct 6, 2021: Indictment deferred after suspects file petitions

The court deferred the framing of charges against the suspects, which was scheduled for October 6, after they filed fresh petitions, seeking certain documents along with the copy of the challan.

Meanwhile, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee approached the Supreme Court to challenge the September 29 IHC’s rejection of their bail plea.

Oct 7, 2021: Court sets Oct 14 for framing of charges

The court fixed October 14 for the indictment of suspects after rejecting their request that they be provided a copy of the digital evidence in the case.

Oct 13, 2021: Zahir’s parents approach IHC seeking reprieve from indictment

Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee approached the Islamabad High Court, seeking annulment of the sessions court’s order to indict the suspects on October 14.

Their pleas stated that they had moved applications in lower courts, seeking copies of evidence and time to prepare for defence. But the additional sessions judge had dismissed both applications.

Later, Zakir would withdraw his plea.

Oct 14, 2021: Court indicts 12 accused, including Zahir Jaffer

The court indicted 12 persons, including prime accused Zahir Jaffer, in the murder case.

Besides Zahir, the court framed charges against Zahir’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, five Therapy Works employees, namely Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas, and Therapy Works CEO Tahir Zahoor.

All of the accused pled not guilty after the indictment.

During the proceedings, Zahir asked Noor’s father for forgiveness, saying: “My life is in danger. Have mercy on me.”

Oct 18, 2021: Supreme Court grants bail to Zahir’s mother

The Supreme Court granted bail to Asmat Adamjee, saying her role in the case was “secondary”.

However, it turned down the petitioner’s request to strike down the IHC’s order of September 29 in which it rejected the bail pleas of Zahir’s parents. “We will not interfere in the high court’s orders,” the apex court said.

Oct 20, 2021: Murder trial formally begins

A sessions court in Islamabad commenced the trial in the murder case as the first formal witness, Sub-Inspector Mohammad Raza who had registered the FIR, recorded his testimony. He was subsequently cross-examined by the accused’s counsel.

Nov 3, 2021: Zahir forcefully removed from courtroom after hurling obscenities at judge

Zahir was forcefully removed from the court by police on November 3 after he disrupted proceedings and hurled obscenities at the judge.

He would again be expelled from the courtroom after disrupting proceedings during witness cross-examinations on November 10.

Nov 6, 2021: Zahir warned of restricted appearance in court if behaviour not corrected

The court issued a written order warning Zahir that his court appearances would be disallowed if he continued his outbursts.

The order read: “Zahir Zakir created fuss in the court and tried to interfere in the proceedings. He is directed to mend his attitude otherwise his attendance will be exempted from the court and he will be taken on video link from jail.”

Nov 9, 2021: CCTV footage transcript submitted to court describes Noor’s attempts to flee

The prosecution submitted in court the transcript of the CCTV footage that captured the events leading to Noor’s murder.

The transcript said that in the footage, Noor was seen jumping from the first floor of Zahir’s house with a cellphone in her hand and falling onto the grill beside the ground floor gallery. She then staggered towards the main gate and wanted to go out but the gatekeeper and the gardener could be seen closing the door to stop her.

According to the transcript, Zahir jumped from the first floor as well, ran towards Noor and then trapped her in a cabin beside the gate. He snatched Noor’s mobile phone from her and dragged her back inside the house.

Nov 14, 2021: Pemra prohibits airing of leaked CCTV footage of Noor’s escape attempt

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority prohibited all satellite TV channels from airing a leaked CCTV footage showing Noor Mukadam’s unsuccessful attempt to escape Zahir’s house before her murder.

Telecast of the CCTV footage was prohibited under Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002.

“All satellite TV channels (news and current affairs/regional language) are, therefore, directed to stop airing aforementioned CCTV footage immediately,” the notification said.

Dec 1, 2021: Zahir’s counsel seeks formation of medical board to determine his mental health

The counsel for Zahir Jaffer filed an application in the court seeking the constitution of a medical board to determine his mental state.

The application contended that Zahir “is suffering from severe mental ailment which is necessary to be determined through an authorised medical board according to the commands of legislature and local and international law”.

It stated that when the trial court framed charges against the accused on October 14, 2021, Zahir “[did not respond] to the charge as he was unable to understand the proceedings of [the] trial court, which is vivid from the charge sheet and order sheet.”

Jan 5: Court rejects plea to form medical board on Zahir’s mental state

The court dismissed the application filed by Zahir’s legal team seeking the constitution of a medical board to determine his mental health.

In its written order issued a day later, the court said the plea was raised “just to get rid of criminal liability”.

Jan 15: Noor’s father testifies in court, demands capital punishment for Zahir

Shaukat Mukadam recorded his statement in the court and demanded capital punishment for Zahir.

He said before the court that “my daughter was unjustly killed”. He was later cross-examined by the defendant’s lawyers.

Jan 20: Jail doctors declare Zahir medically fit

The court was presented a report by the doctors at Rawalpindi Central Jail Adiala that declared Zahir medically “completely fit”.

Zahir was brought by policemen on a stretcher at that hearing.

His lawyer had requested his medical check-up at an earlier hearing, where he was carried to the courtroom by policemen while sitting hunched over in a chair.

Jan 25: Police issue clarification after IO’s cross-examination

Islamabad police issued a detailed statement clarifying the progress in the murder case, saying that some media reports had “misinterpreted” the proceedings and the investigation officer’s responses to questions by the defence counsel.

The clarification came a day after the IO, during his cross-examination by Zahir’s lawyer, told the court that the National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) did not find Zahir’s fingerprints on the knife, which was the weapon of offence recovered from the crime scene, and that there were no bloodstains on his pants when he was arrested.

Islamabad police clarified that the questions posed to the IO were specific and he was asked to answer either “yes” or “no” and that the reporting in the media was missing crucial context.

Police said that Zahir’s shirt was stained with the victim’s blood at the time of his arrest.

Feb 2: New SSP appointed to prosecute the case

Senior Superintendent of Police (operations) Syed Ali Akbar Shah was appointed as the SSP investigation with the instruction to prosecute the case, replacing SSP Attaur Rehman, who was transferred to the Central Police Office.

A police spokesperson said Rehman was removed from the post over the failure of the investigation wing to appear at the hearings with proper preparations.

Feb 8: Zahir’s applications against IG, IO dismissed

The court dismissed two applications filed by Zahir against the inspector general of Islamabad police and the IO and one asking for the verification of ownership of the mobile phone under the deceased’s use.

The counsel for Jaffer was seeking action against the police officials for issuing a clarification to dispel the impression that the investigation in the murder case was flawed.

Feb 9: Zahir claims he is falsely implicated

Zahir Jaffer’s lawyers presented before the court his replies to a questionnaire issued under Section 342 (power to examine the accused) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, wherein the accused maintained that he and his parents were falsely implicated in the case, that state machinery and media were used against him and raised objections over the case’s investigation and collection of evidence.

He claimed that Noor had insisted on holding a party at his house and not him but someone else at the party had killed her.

At a later hearing, Shaukat Mukadam’s counsel contested these claims, saying that no party was organised at Zahir’s residence.

“There is no footage of any such party,” he said.

Feb 21: Lawyers seek acquittal, ‘benefit of doubt’ for Therapy Works employees after final arguments

The counsels for Asmat Adamjee, five Therapy Works employees and the facility’s chief executive officer completed their final arguments.

The lawyer representing the five Therapy Works employees sought their acquittal, arguing that they had not been proved guilty of removing evidence from the crime scene.

The counsel for the Therapy Works CEO contended that the facility’s staffers should be given “the benefit of the doubt” as the prosecution had failed prove the allegations levelled against them.

Moreover, Asmat Adamjee’s counsel requested her acquittal.

Feb 22: Court reserves verdict as parties complete arguments

The court reserved its verdict in the murder case after all the parties made their final arguments. The announcement of the verdict was scheduled for February 24.

After the hearing, Shaukat Mukadam spoke to the media and said he had sought “maximum punishment” for the accused.

He added that he was “completely satisfied” with the investigation despite “some ups and downs” as he also commended the police for operating “under pressure”.

Feb 24: Court sentences Zahir Jaffer to death for murder of Noor Mukadam

The sessions court in Islamabad sentenced primary suspect Zahir Jaffer to death for the murder of Noor Mukadam.

Zahir’s household staff Iftikhar and Jameel — both co-accused in the case — were sentenced to 10 years in jail, while all other suspects, including Zahir’s parents and TherapyWorks employees, were acquitted.

March 2: Zahir’s gardener moves IHC against conviction

Jan Mohammad, the gardener who was jailed for 10 years in the case challenged his conviction in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

According to the appeal, the convict was a government employee and in order to make ends meet, he was working at Jaffer’s house as a part-time gardener. It claimed that the trial court convicted him without any tangible evidence.

March 12: Shaukat Mukadam seeks increase in convicts’ sentences

Noor’s father filed three appeals through his counsel Shah Khawar in the IHC seeking an increase in the sentences of Zahir Jaffer and his domestic staff.

He also challenged the trial court’s verdict to acquit Zahir’s parents Ismat Adamjee and Zakir Jaffer, his cook Jameel and the six employees of Therapy Works.

March 15: Zahir moves court against death sentence

Zahir Jaffer filed an appeal in the IHC against his conviction.

March 16: IHC seeks record of Noor’s murder trial

The IHC sought the entire record of Noor’s murder trial and clubbed Zahir’s appeal against the death penalty without Shaukat Mukadam’s appeal against the acquittal of nine accused in the case.

March 29: Zahir’s watchman Iftikhar files appeal in IHC

Zahir’s watchman Iftikhar filed an appeal in the IHC seeking a reduction in his 10-year sentence.

June 28: IHC fixes hearing on appeals on Sept 14

After several delays due to the absences of judges, the IHC finally fixed a hearing on the appeals against the sentence on September 14.

The court remarked that it would hear the appeals one by one as several has been filed in the case. It also instructed the registrar’s office to prepare the paper book of the case.

July 20: No compromise with Noor’s killers, says father

Shaukat Mukadam ruled out the possibility that his family may reach a compromise with Zahir Jaffer, asserting that “there is no question of compromise with the culprit because now it is the case for all the daughters of Pakistan”.

In an interview with Express Tribune, he said: “I will not show any sort of flexibility. Just as I stand for Noor, I stand for the daughters of Pakistan and I will go to any extent for the honour of these daughters”.

Header image: A photo of Noor Mukadam who was brutally killed on July 20, 2021. — Photo courtesy Leena Ghani Twitter