A sessions court in Islamabad on Tuesday reserved its verdict in the Noor Mukadam murder case after all the parties made their final arguments.
Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani presided over the court proceedings today and later stated that the verdict will be announced on Thursday (Feb 24).
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20 last year. A first information report (FIR) was registered the same day against primary accused Zahir Jaffer — 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 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.
The court proceedings began today with Shaukat's counsel Nisar Asghar presenting his arguments.
He accused the defence of not even sparing the court's sanctity during the cross-examination. "It was claimed that Shaukat had got the accused arrested due to being influential," Asghar said, contending that if there was pressure from him then the house where the incident happened would have been sealed shut instead of people going to and fro.
"It was said that planning for this case was done at the police station. If that was true then there would've been conformity [in the police reports] and the writing would also have been the same," he argued.
Asghar added that the defence's claim about Noor and Zahir being in a "living relationship" was a concoction.
Regarding some purported discrepancies in the investigation, he said they could be chalked up to "incompetence but not ill intent".
Meanwhile, another counsel for Noor's father, Shah Khawar, said there was solid evidence present in the case based on the digital video recorder, call data record (CDR), forensic analysis and DNA reports.
"All evidence in the case was collected scientifically," he said, adding that the prosecution had proven the case against the accused and called on the court to deliver a strict punishment.
DVR's authenticity leaves no doubt of Zahir's guilt: prosecutor
Meanwhile, prosecutor Rana Hassan Abbas critiqued the defence's attempt to find fault with Shaukat not making a statement about the dead body, saying "the biggest evidence is that Zahir Jafar was arrested at the scene".
"The DVR was declared authentic and taken as the final piece of evidence," he said, adding that Zahir had been arrested from the crime scene with the murder weapon while blood was found on his clothes.
"After that, there is no doubt left [that he is guilty]," Abbas said.
He argued that the case was further strengthened by the forensic report as Zahir's DNA had matched with samples from under Noor's fingernails. He further said that Noor's blood had matched with samples collected from various places and objects such as the knuckle duster, swiss knife, toothpick and others.
The prosecutor said Zahir's photogrammetry test had also matched — a fact that he said "cannot be denied".
He rejected the primary accused's claims that Noor was under the influence of drugs, saying: "Drugs and poison were not detected in Noor Mukadam's lungs according to the medical report."
Benefit of doubt should go to Zahir's mother: lawyer
Asad Jamal, counsel for Zahir's mother Asmat Adamjee, in his counter-arguments, criticised the manner in which the CDR was handled in the case. He said the prosecution's case rested on all the accused being in contact with each other as he urged the prosecution to prove that the parents knew of the murder.
Jamal said the CDR was generated through a third party and should have instead been obtained through a proper channel as he prayed to the court that the benefit of doubt should be given to his client.
Primary accused Zahir Jaffer's lawyer Shahryar Nawaz then gave his counter-arguments, saying: "The prosecution says that there are fingerprints of Zahir Jaffer on everything. The prosecution has not yet been able to answer why there are no fingerprints of Zahir Jaffer on the murder device."
He also questioned why Noor's mother was not made a part of the investigation.
Sajjad Bhatti, the counsel for the household staff — Iftikhar (watchman), Jan Mohammad (gardener) and Jameel (cook) — was the last to present his arguments.
He argued that his clients had only performed their responsibilities and knew little of what was going on between Noor and Zahir, adding that the children of the co-accused were being "financially murdered" by keeping them a part of the case.
Noor's father 'completely satisfied' with investigation
Talking to the media after the hearing, Noor's father, Shaukat Mukadam, said that he sought "maximum punishment" for the accused and reposed his confidence in Judge Ata Rabbani.
"He has conducted a fair and transparent trial," Shaukat said of the judge's handling of the case, adding that he was "completely satisfied" with the investigation despite "some ups and downs" as he also commended the police for operating "under pressure".
"It was a difficult time but I had full faith in my daughter. Noor Mukadam was a good girl and she was not involved in anything wrong," Shaukat said.
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.