Pakistan has seen 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, 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.
With the high-profile murder trial slated to commence in the next hearing scheduled for Oct 6, here's a look at how the case has unfolded and what the police investigation has revealed:
July 21: 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 has sought the maximum punishment under the law against Zahir for allegedly murdering his daughter.
July 23: 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: 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: 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.
July 26: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
Aug 5: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.
Sept 17: 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: 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 and it was the first time the family had gathered together to speak to the public.
Sep 23: 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.
Header image: A file photo of Noor Mukadam who was brutally killed on July 20. — Photo courtesy change.org/File