Noor murder case: Zahir Jaffer carried to court by policemen, lawyer says mental health has 'worsened'
Policemen carried Zahir Jaffer, primary accused in the Noor Mukadam murder case, on a chair to the courtroom from the bakshi khana — a temporary lockup situated in the district courts for under-trial prisoners — during the hearing in a Islamabad district and sessions court on Monday, with his lawyer contending that his mental condition had "worsened".
Junior lawyer Usman Riaz Gul was representing Zahir during today's proceedings as the accused's counsel, Advocate Sikandar Zulqarnain Saleem, did not appear before the court. He later joined the hearing through a video connection.
Prior to his joining, Gul drew the court's attention to Zahir's absence from the hearing.
"I have stated thrice that primary accused Zahir Jaffer has not been produced [before the court].”
When the judge also took notice of Zahir's absence, Akram Qureshi — counsel for Therapyworks owner Tahir Zahoor, a co-accused in the case — informed him that Zahir was not in a condition to be able to walk.
At that, Judge Rabbani remarked that he had written a letter to the jail authorities, directing them to get Zahir's medical check-up done.
Eventually, Zahir, who was seen sitting hunched over in a chair, was carried to the courtroom by policemen.
"The mental condition of the accused has worsened," said Gul, upon Zahir's arrival.
Judge Rabbani then repeated that he had written a letter to jail authorities, directing them regarding Zahir's medical check-up.
Following that, Zahir was taken back to the bakhshi khana.
Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, Gul requested the court to issue a written order regarding Zahir's medical check-up and treatment.
"I already issued a written order at the previous hearing," Judge Rabbani remarked.
The lawyer replied that the judge's directives issued at the previous hearing had not been implemented and that was why the court was being moved again on the matter.
The judge, however, did not respond to the request.
An application seeking the formation of a medical board to determine the state of Zahir's mental health has already been dismissed by the court, which observed in its written order on the matter that the plea had been raised "just to get rid of criminal liability".
The order, issued on January 6, stated that the plea was filed when the trial was nearing its end and the matter had not been raised before the court earlier.
"Facts and attending circumstances reveal that the accused is not suffering from mental illness [and] such afterthought plea has been raised just to get rid of criminal liability," the order read.
Zahir's counsel, Advocate Saleem, joined the hearing later through a video link, after the court rebuked junior lawyer Gul over the advocate's absence.
At the last hearing, Advocate Saleem's medical reports were presented to the court and it was informed that the lawyer had contracted Covid-19.
Today, Gul requested the court to defer the hearing due to Advocate Saleem's absence, who he said was ill and could not appear appear before the court.
Irked by this, Judge Rabbani pointed out to him that the counsel's job was to assist in the proceedings and not to create hurdles in their way.
Gul then said, "We don't want delay[s] in the trial," and requested that the senior lawyer be allowed to join the hearing via a video link.
Upon the court's approval, Advocate Saleem later joined the session through a video link and cross-examined Shaukat Ali Mukadam, the father of slain Noor Mukadam and complainant in the case.
He had recorded his statement at the previous hearing.
During the cross-examination, he said he was made a diplomat in 2010 and served as Pakistan's ambassador to South Korea until 2013. Shaukat added that he retired in December 2014.
When asked about his family's details, he replied: "His daughter Sara's age is 35, son Muhammad's is 33 and Noor's was around 27 to 28."
"My son, Muhammad Ali, never joined the investigation," he said, adding that his wife's name was Kausar.
The lawyer then turned his attention to the murder case, asking the complainant whether Noor was at home when they had left on July 19 last year, a day before Noor was found murdered at Zahir Jaffer’s residence in Islamabad's upscale Sector F-7/4.
Shaukat replied, "When we left our house, we believed that she was at home, but she was not.”
Answering subsequent questions, he shared that Noor had called her mother and informed that she was going to Lahore with her friends.
But this conversation between Noor and her mother was not mentioned in the complaint, Shaukat said. He also told the court that the phone number of Noor's mother was not mentioned in the complaint either.
He added that Noor had left the house without informing them two to three times.
"But she would inform after reaching [wherever she had gone]."
Shaukat further said that when Noor called to inform them about her leaving for Lahore, she did not specify with whom she was going.
"She just said she was going with friends."
He said he hadn't filed a report with the police after finding out that Noor's phone was switched off.
The former diplomat said he didn't remember the name of the police officer who had called him and neither had he shared this information during the investigation.
Zahir, he said, had called him on WhatsApp. "But I also didn't mention that he had called me on my personal number, on WhatsApp."
"I have never shared during the investigation that Zahir called me on WhatsApp.”
He said he had never stopped Noor from visiting Zahir's house and never asked Zahir’s parents to stop her either.
To a question, he said he had signed five pages in relevance to the case and during the course of the proceedings.
In the build-up to the next question, Advocate Saleem said, "Don't be angry at my next question. You are a [former] ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."
"Can such a relation exist in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?" he questioned, referring to Zahir and Noor.
In reply, Shaukat said both of them were university students.
At that point, Asad Jamal, the counsel for Zahir's mother and co-accused Asma Adamjee, interjected and requested that the question be "dropped".
"This is not an appropriate question," he said.
Advocate Saleem, however, said, "He (Shaukat) is giving his reply. Let him answer."
Saleem added that Zahir and Noor had been related for long.
But Shaukat's counsels, Shah Khawar and Babar Hayat Soomro again objected to the question.
Soomro said under article 146 of the Qanun-i-Shahadat Order, 1984, scandalous questions could not be asked.
At that, the judge asked Advocate Saleem to drop the question.
Advocate Saleem then said Noor and Zahir were class fellows and asked Shaukat whether he knew that Zahir had been deported from London.
Shaukat refuted that Noor and Zahir were class fellows and denied having any knowledge of the latter's deportation.
He also told the court that police had searched Zahir's house in his presence.
After the cross-examination, Advocate Saleem apologised to Shaukat for his "hard questions".
The court adjourned the hearing till January 20.
Earlier in the hearing, the investigating officer's statement was recorded who recounted the events of the case's investigation in detail.
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital'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 (PPC) on the complaint of the victim's father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam, who is a retired Pakistani diplomat.
After the FIR was registered in the murder case, Zahir's parents and household staff were 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 Noor's father's statement.
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 their 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.
Six officials of Therapy Works, whose employees had visited the site of the murder before police, were also nominated in the case and were indicted with six others, including Zahir Jaffer's parents, in October.