Noor Mukaddam’s murder reignited a debate on violence against women as thousands of people took to social media to demand justice, recalling other femicide victims whose deaths sparked less furore, including at least two others killed this week.
The beheading of Noor Mukaddam, the daughter of a former ambassador, on Tuesday has shocked Pakistan, with social media inundated by an outpouring of anger and outrage that reignited a debate on violence against women in the country.
Mukaddam, 27, was found murdered in a house in an upscale neighbourhood in the capital Islamabad on July 20.
Police arrested a suspect, Zahir Jaffer, a friend of the victim, at the scene later that day.
Jaffer was booked under charges of premeditated murder.
On Thursday, Islamabad police recommended the suspect be placed on an Exit Control List to ensure he does not flee the country.
Suspect 'in his senses'
At a press conference earlier this week, senior police officer Attaur Rehman said despite having a history of drug use, Jaffer had been “in his senses” at the time of his arrest.
Rehman said when the police found him, Jaffer had been bound and tied by someone who was called to the scene of the crime before law-enforcement arrived, without specifying who.
The police officer confirmed that Mukaddam and Jaffer had known each other before the assault took place.
Rehman told reporters police had seized the murder weapon and that a gun had also been recovered with a bullet stuck inside.
A police investigation is ongoing into the murder and its motives, while the suspect was remanded to custody.
Noor's funeral took place on Thursday.
Another day. Another woman brutally killed. Another hashtag. Another trauma. Another (likely) unsolved case. Another trigger. Another fear fest. Another rage roar. Another eid.— MEESHA SHAFI (@itsmeeshashafi) July 21, 2021
‘Protection of women’ bill oppose kernay walon ko mubarik. #JusticeForNoor
"The barbaric murder of young woman, Noor, in Islamabad is yet another horrifying reminder that women have been and are brutalized and killed with impunity," said human rights minister, Shireen Mazari.
"This must end. We are committed to ensuring no one is above the law and culprits having influence and power cannot simply 'get away'."
Flagbearers of change, this is your acid test – do what it takes to ensure that no other Saima, Quratulain or Noor is the victim of our collective apathy, again@ImranKhanPTI @ShireenMazari1 #JusticeforSaima #justiceforquratulain #JusticeForQuratulainAnnie #JusticeForNoor— Yusra Askari (@YusraSAskari) July 22, 2021
Powerful families, hopes for justice?
The victim’s father, Shaukat Mukaddam, has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan.
The family of the suspect had been acquaintances, with local media reporting he is the son of the CEO of a leading construction company in Islamabad.
“The murder of Noor Mukadam is unique in that it is one of first in Pakistan's age of hyper social media where two influential families will take to the courts for a crime against a woman that has shaken the public imagination," argued Arab News writer and editor Amal Khan.
"Their fight will have a level playing field.
“We might witness a historic moment for protection of women's laws in Pakistan.”
Thousands of people, including many of Pakistan’s artists and public figures, took to social media to call for justice for the victim and her family under the hashtag #JusticeForNoor, recalling other femicide victims that passed with less furore, with at least two more taking place in Pakistan this week.
“Another day. Another woman brutally killed. Another hashtag. Another trauma. Another (likely) unsolved case,” wrote singer and actress Meesha Shafi on Twitter.
These are just the stories that went viral in the last two weeks. The newspapers are full of similar stories over the last two weeks where women were assaulted, beaten, and murdered.— Shehzad Ghias Shaikh (@Shehzad89) July 21, 2021
While numbers are hard to track down, statistics collected by anti-violence campaign group White Ribbon show that between 2004 and 2016, there were more than 15,000 honour crimes, 5,500 kidnappings of women, nearly 5,000 cases of sexual violence, nearly 2,000 recorded cases of domestic violence as well as 36,000 suicides among women in Pakistan.
Conviction rates remain low.
“If you are a man who thinks Pakistan is safe for women, either you don't talk to women, or women in your family/friends, don't trust you enough to tell you the truth,” wrote stand up comedian and podcast host Shehzad Ghias Shaikh.
He pointed out that earlier in the month, a bill seeking to broaden the definition of domestic violence and make any act of violence punishable with imprisonment and a fine had found staunch opposition in Parliament and outside.
Women's rights groups such as Aurat March have called for protests in Islamabad and Lahore over the weekend in response to the murder of Mukaddam and the three other women who were killed in the last 10 days.
We need a system efficient, transparent, fair and speedy enough to be able to deliver justice to the victims even without any social media campaigns. That is the kind of Pakistan I want. ‘A system that reacts before social media does’ is what our goal should be. #JusticeForNoor— Shiffa Z. Yousafzai (@Shiffa_ZY) July 22, 2021