Thursday September 23, 2021

‘An eerie silence’: Noor’s cries for help remain a mystery

ISLAMABAD: In the week since Noor Mukadam was brutally killed in a plush Islamabad home, an eerie silence has descended upon the house once at the center of social gatherings.

For residents of Pakistan’s capital, the killing at the luxurious three level home of sector F-7/4 has transformed life for the worst.

In an exclusive touch to this well-endowed home, its premises include a manicured lawn across the adjoining extra land belonging to the CDA (Capital Development Authority). The layout gives the house a relatively rare touch even by the standards of homes belonging to Islamabad’s well-endowed but relatively few very affluent ones.

Visitors, notably probing journalists, to the house on street number 60 are met by a private security guard at the main entrance and politely turned away. “I was deputed here on Sunday (July 25) after the incident. Everyone at the house who were present when the incident took place has been arrested” he says. As he watches over the three fancy vehicles including a SUV parked in the two drive ways, the guard hastens to list his duties including opening of “the front gate for the policemen whenever they visit to investigate the incident”. For Islamabad’s residents, notably of sector F-7/4, the full mystery behind Noor Mukadam’s killing is yet to unfold, though reportedly there is footage from cameras nearby in possession of the police.

“Exactly how could the neighbours ignore calls for help as that poor girl struggled for her life?” asks a housewife who lives nearby and requested not to be named. “But then especially in high income neighborhoods, people tend to remain aloof from each other. Or possibly there was loud music playing at the time that her [Noor Mukadam’s] cry for help was simply muffled” she says, echoing the air of ongoing speculation surrounding the case.

The tragedy that unfolded in F-7/4 last week has also shone the light on the now shut ‘Therapy Works’ clinic in Islamabad’s upscale F-6 sector-a facility that according to its own website provides ‘counselling and psychotherapy’ services. A call to the listed mobile phone number of ‘Therapy works’ was answered by a lady who introduced herself as Zainab — a coordinator. “We have been advised by our lawyer not to say anything at this time. We will issue a statement” she said though confirming that Zahir Jaffer, the accused murderer of Noor Mukadam had been a ‘student’ at Therapy Works and later approached them for counselling.

Meanwhile, police officers investigating the case are also probing Jaffer’s history of drug dependence. Together, the combination of untreated or partially treated mental health issues in combination with the use of drugs is widely known as a highly toxic mix.

Still, the police continues to defend a statement by Attaur Rehman, Islamabad’s SSP Investigations who was quoted last week saying; “When we arrested him, he was sound and in his senses. He may have had a past history [of taking drugs] but at least at this time he was completely in his senses”.

On Tuesday, police officers in Islamabad confirmed earlier reports of Zahir Jaffer during interrogation having admitted to murdering Noor Mukadam. The police were waiting for the next stage — a formal statement by the accused before a judicial officer, admitting his guilt.

The combination of pressure from Islamabad’s civil society and mainstream citizens for a full conviction, for now has raised popular hope that justice will be served, notwithstanding the many unresolved cases of women in Pakistan brutally killed.

On Sunday, a candle light vigil at a park in F-7/4 to remember Noor Mukadam brought together a large number of supporters who sought a conviction. In a twist of irony however, the spot of the vigil lies close to where Noor Mukadam was so brutally killed with her cries for help muffled. Were the neighbours in this upmarket neighborhood unaware, or they simply ignored intervening, in a matter now a clear test case for Pakistan’s commitment to protecting its women?