A sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday commenced the trial in the Noor Mukadam murder case as the first formal witness, a police official, recorded his testimony.
During the hearing, the court also assigned a state lawyer to Zahir Zakir Jaffer — the prime accused in the murder case. Zahir will be represented by Shaheryar Nawaz Khan.
Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani conducted the hearing during which five arrested accused, including Zahir and his father Zakir Jaffer, were produced before the court. Zahir's mother Asmat Adamjee and six Therapyworks employees, who were all released on bail, also appeared in the court.
The lawyer for Mukadam's family, Shah Khawar, informed the court that three formal witnesses were present in the court — Abid Latif, who delivered the complainant's application; Sub-Inspector Mohammad Raza, who registered the first information report (FIR); and Basharat, who collected the fingerprints.
After taking the oath, SI Raza's testimony was recorded, and he was subsequently cross-examined by the accused's counsel.
During the hearing, prime accused Zahir was seen constantly trying to speak. He was silenced by police officials on court orders.
After the police official's testimony was completed, the court summoned another five witnesses — Basharat, Latif, map-maker Amir Shehzad, computer operator Mudassir and Aqsa Rani — for the next hearing.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for Adamjee, Asad Jamal, informed the court that his client had been released on bail but the house registered in her name had been sealed by the authorities.
"You are the [suspect's] mother, who has stopped you from going to the house?" the judge asked Adamjee.
In response, Jamal requested the court to issue orders in this regard to the investigation officer "so that no accusation is levelled in the future" against Adamjee.
The case was adjourned until October 27.
Police reply sought on Zahir’s parents’ plea to annul indictment
Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) today sought a reply from authorities in separate petitions filed by Zahir's parents and the Therapyworks CEO, seeking annulment of the trial court order of framing charges against them.
The petitioners argued in their pleas that the prosecution didn't provide them copies of the evidence, hampering their defence preparation.
The trial court had on Oct 14 indicted 12 suspects including Zahir Zakir Jaffer, his parents, their three household staff Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, Therapyworks CEO Tahir Zahoor and employees Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas.
Following the indictment, Adamjee and Zakir filed separate petitions with the IHC urging the court to set aside the trial court order of Oct 14, while the CEO of Therapyworks had filed a similar petition on October 9 — two days after the trial court had set Oct 14 for the indictment of the suspects.
The petition filed by Zakir argues that prosecution's case “is based upon surmises and conjectures” and that charges cannot be framed on the basis of “whims of investigation officers”.
It also said the trial court's order was “reckless exercise of authority and against the basic provisions of law”.
The petitions were taken up for hearing today by IHC's Justice Aamer Farooq. During the hearing, the counsel of Zahir's mother, Asad Jamal, claimed that the police did not have a statement from any witness in the case. In response, public prosecutor Zohaib Gondal pointed out that a head constable was the witness and his statement had been recorded last week.
Jamal also told the court that CCTV footage was not being provided to him. At this, the prosecutor assured the court that the footage will be shared with the petitioner's lawyer.
Justice Farooq remarked that such lapses led to delay in trials and asked the prosecutor to ensure that such instances were avoided. He said a fair trial required that all evidence should be provided to the petitioners.
He observed that the court will pass an order binding the prosecutor to provide all necessary evidence to the defendants.
The court adjourned the hearing till Oct 25 before issuing notices to the state and other respondents in the case.
Zahir’s parents were taken into custody on July 24 following their son's arrest. They have been accused of concealing material facts from the investigation team. Subsequently, they had approached a district and sessions court for bail.
The local court had on Aug 5 dismissed their post-arrest bail applications and observed that they had abetted Noor's murder and attempted to conceal material evidence.
Later, they approached the Islamabad High Court for bail, which also rejected their plea and ordered authorities to keep them in detention until the completion of the trial.
However, the Supreme Court had on Oct 18 granted bail to Adamjee, Zahir's mother, remarking that her role in the case was "secondary".
While granting the bail, Justice Umar Ata Bandial had asked the authorities to also determine why instead of the police, Therapyworks employees were called to the scene of the murder.
Therapy Works, a counselling and psychotherapy service, also came under public scrutiny as the murder investigation unfolded and it was revealed that the prime suspect, Zahir, was associated with it.
The employees of Therapy Works were arrested on Aug 15, but a week later on Aug 23 they were granted bail by the sessions court.
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 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 Zahir, 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.