A district and sessions court in Islamabad indicted 12 persons, including prime accused Zahir Jaffer, for their alleged involvement in the murder of Noor Mukadam, whose body was found at a residence in Islamabad's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20 earlier this year.
Besides Zahir, the court framed charges against Zahir's parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six Therapy Works employees, identified as Tahir Zahoor, Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas.
Of the accused, the six Therapy Works employees, who are currently on bail, appeared before the court in their personal capacity. The remaining accused were brought to the court from Adiala jail.
After Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani indicted the accused, all of them pleaded not guilty to the charges. At this, the court summoned the prosecution's witnesses on October 20 to start the trial.
At the outset of the hearing, Zakir — the father of the prime accused — filed a request to the court, asking it not to proceed with the indictment. His lawyer, Rizwan Abbasi, contended that no evidence had been provided to his client on the basis of which charges could be framed against Zakir.
He added that the evidence produced before the court could not be linked to Zakir.
For his part, the counsel for Noor's father, Shaukat Mukadam, argued that the evidence could be examined during the trial, adding that at this stage, the court was only indicting the accused and not handing out sentences to them. He prayed the court to dismiss Zakir's request and indict the accused.
All the while the lawyers presented their arguments, Zahir — the prime suspect — continued to interject. Pointing to Therapy Works' employees present at the hearing, he said they had barged into his house.
Zahir further stated that Noor was his friend and asked his parents' counsel not to interfere in the matter. "They are discussing my property. [Details about] my property should not be discussed," he said, adding that his life was in danger.
He claimed that Noor "wanted to sacrifice [her life] and presented herself for the sacrifice".
Zahir also asked for forgiveness from Shaukat during the hearing. "My life is in danger. Have mercy on me," he said. He also requested the court multiple times to let him make a phone call, without specifying whom he wanted to call.
The court, however, did not grant him permission to make the call.
Another accused in the case, Iftikhar — one of Zahir's household staff — wept before the court, saying that Noor had been visiting Zahir's residence for the past two years.
"I had no idea that this (Noor's murder) would happen," he said.
Following the exchange. the court initially reserved its judgement on the indictment of the accused, but later framed charges against them.
The court had then fixed October 14 for the indictment in the case.
Meanwhile, Zahir's parents had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC), seeking annulment of the sessions court's order to indict 12 suspects in the murder case on October 14. No progress has been made on their petition to the IHC so far.
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in Islamabad's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20.
A first information report (FIR) was registered later the same day against Zahir, who was arrested from the site of the murder, under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of the victim's father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam.
Zahir's parents and household staff were also arrested on July 24 over allegations of "hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime". They were made a part of the investigation based on Shaukat's statement, according to a police spokesperson.
In his complaint, Shaukat had stated that he had gone to Rawalpindi on July 19 to buy a goat for Eidul Azha, while his wife had gone out to pick up clothes from her tailor. When he had returned home in the evening, the couple found their daughter Noor absent from their house in Islamabad.
They had found her cellphone number switched off and started a search for her. Sometime later, Noor had called her parents to inform them that she was travelling to Lahore with some friends and would return in a day or two, according to the FIR.
The complainant said he had later received a call from the suspect, whose family were the ex-diplomat's acquaintances. The suspect had informed Shaukat that Noor was not with him, the FIR said.
At around 10pm on July 20, the victim's father had received a call from Kohsar police station, informing him that Noor had been murdered.
Police had subsequently taken the complainant to Zahir's house in Sector F-7/4 where he discovered that his "daughter has been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded", according to the FIR.
Shaukat, who identified his daughter's body, has sought the maximum punishment under the law against Zahir for allegedly murdering his daughter.
Police later said that Zahir had confessed to killing Noor while his DNA test and fingerprints also showed his involvement in the murder.