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EDITORIAL: The gruesome, brutal murder of Noor Mukadam, the 27-year-old daughter of former ambassador Shaukat Ali Mukadam, in Islamabad on July 20, 2021 has shocked and outraged the country. The facts of the case as revealed by police investigations so far read like some invention of a sick mind. Noor called her parents on that day to inform she was travelling to Lahore with friends, and would return in a day or two. In fact she was in Islamabad at the house of the accused, Zahir Jaffer, the scion of a prominent business family. Noor messaged one of her friends that she was detained in the accused’s house. When a group of her friends reached the house, they were not allowed to enter the premises. The police finally arrived and arrested the accused while Noor’s body was sent for autopsy and forensic investigation. Noor had suffered multiple stab and other injuries, ostensibly before being decapitated. The circumstances, according to the police, suggest the accused had pre-planned the murder since he was booked on a flight to the US the very next day. Reportage of the crime says Noor and Zahir were old and close friends, who broke up two years ago. Meanwhile, the investigation team has asked the Ministry of Interior to put accused Zahir Jaffer’s name on the Exit Control List and confiscated his passport. The accused is a dual national of the US and Pakistan. The US and UK authorities are being approached to ascertain whether he had any criminal record amidst unconfirmed reports that he was deported from the UK on sexual harassment and rape charges.

This latest horror against a young woman in the prime of life comes in a long and lengthening line of gruesome violence against women, sometimes ending in the death of the victim, which afflicts a country that increasingly and alarmingly appears to be a highly dangerous place for women. Our women are acquiring education and awareness of their rights on an unprecedented scale since some years, a process that poses a challenge to the long entrenched patriarchy. Some of the violence against women therefore can logically be situated in the reaction of outraged men unaccustomed to their wishes being defied by women. Tradition-bound attitudes advocate a traditional code of conduct for women that they say provides them safety from abuse. But many instances of violence against and murder of women contradict this outmoded approach. None are safe, even from various backgrounds with varying levels of education, or even privileged class origins.

The state and society must wake up to the burgeoning epidemic of physical and sexual abuse of women inside and outside the home instead of the former ignoring this burning issue and the latter taking refuge behind outmoded ways of thinking rooted in a past predicated on unquestioned male domination and provide half of our population the safety, dignity and respect that is their due as women and human beings. Change in this regard is long overdue. If this instant case provides the impetus for bringing the accused to justice irrespective of his social or elite status, it would be a small but significant blow against the virtual free for all that men’s hidebound attitudes have spawned in their treatment of women in our society.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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