A sessions court in Islamabad on Wednesday conducted the hearing into the Noor Mukadam murder case after directing four accused — including prime accused Zahir Jaffer — to appear through video link after the police failed to produce them in the court due to the closure of roads in the city.

The court had commenced the trial of the case on Oct 20.

At the hearing today, lawyers Akram Qureshi and Shehzad Qureshi represented Therapyworks employees; Asad Jamal represented Asmat Adamjee, and Sajjad Ahmed Bhatti appeared as legal counsel of the household staff of Jaffer's house.

At the outset of the proceedings, Akram Qureshi informed the court that his clients — incarcerated in Adiala Jail — could not appear today due to the closure of roads. Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani remarked that the accused may attend the proceedings via Skype — a video-conferencing application.

Qureshi initially appeared to resist the directions, saying he had no problem with it, however, the prosecution will face difficulty in its wake.

The complainant's lawyer, Shah Khawar, informed the court that the copies sought by the defendants had been provided to them. The court also directed the police to provide copies of the first statements of the accused they had given to law enforcers.

Zakir Jaffer changes lawyer

Zakir Jaffer, the father of prime accused Zahir, hired Advocate Basharat to plead his case and informed the court about it.

The three witnesses — constable Abid Latif, who delivered the complainant's application; Assistant Sub Inspector Basharat, who collected the fingerprints and police constable Aqsa Rani — were produced in the court for cross-examination.

Latif informed the court that he collected the statement of the complainant and delivered it to Kohsar Police Station.

Defence counsel Akram questioned whether he was asked to reach the spot by his higher-ups. "You said in a written statement that you received the information and in the court, you said you reached the spot on your own," the lawyer pointed out.

The witness said there were no senior police officers present at the time of the incident. The lawyer berated the witness, saying he was speaking a lie with courage.

Latif also replied in the negative when asked whether he had arrested someone from the crime scene.

Another witness, Basharat, told the court that he had reached the crime scene shortly afterwards where, according to him, a number of police officers were already present.

He said Inspector Abdul Sattar had asked him to collect the fingerprints.

Similarly, Aqsa — another witness in the case — said she had examined the body [of Noor Mukadam] and informed the investigators about it.

She also told the court that none of her higher-ups had arrested anyone from the crime scene.

After hearing statements of the witnesses, the court directed the police to produce four other witnesses — map-maker Amir Shehzad, computer operator Mudassir, ASI Muhammad Riaz and Head Constable Firasat Fahim — in the next hearing on Nov 3.

Case background

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.

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