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Noor Mukadam, daughter of a former diplomat murdered in Pakistan ignites outrage over femicides



The brutal killings in the heart of Islamabad involving the families of prominent people in Pakistani society have made headlines this past week.

Noor Mukadam, 27, the daughter of a former Pakistani strategist, was found beheaded in the capital on July 20. Police have charged Zahir Jaffer, a US-born and expert in one of Pakistan's richest families, with murder.

Investigators said the two were friends, and Jaffer lured Mukadam, the daughter of the former Pakistani ambassador to South Korea, into his home, kept her there for two days, and then brutally murdered her.

Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, and thousands more are victims of violent violence, but few cases receive ongoing media attention, and only a small percentage of perpetrators have been punished.

These killings, however, have affected a section of society that is often thought to be unprotected by the general injustice, sparking public outcry unlike any other recent case.

"The situation of the affected families, especially the family of Zahir Jaffer, and Noror's father, who was a former ambassador, and this is happening in the highlands of Islamabad ... .

Mukadam's assassination has been the subject of a spate of murders of women in recent history. Social media has erupted in fury, with protests and vigils in major cities, as well as among Pakistani residents as far away as Canada and the United States.


Faced with public outrage, the Jaffer family has published full-page advertisements in the newspapers distancing themselves from the killings and seeking justice.

The lives of women in rural Pakistan are very different from those in urban areas, especially in Islamabad, where the best restaurants and shopping malls are home to a mix of wealthy scholars, government officials, strategists, immigrants, and foreign journalists.

For many women in the capital of the country, even those similarities of freedom and security have been shattered.

"I have daughters, too, and I worry day and night if this happens to my daughter who will stand with me ?," Amna Salman Butt told Reuters at a Mukadam vigil in Islamabad this week that drew hundreds. "If someone is abusing us will we have to come up with hashtags too ?," he said, referring to the hashtag #JusticeForNoor that once dominated Twitter in Pakistan.

"Every woman I spoke to after Noor's story talks about them feeling very scared, coming from the men around them," said Benazir Shah, a journalist based in Lahore. He said some cried about not sleeping at night.

While the daily turmoil of the trial took place at a national news conference, rights groups in Pakistan called on the government to pass a historic bill aimed at tackling domestic violence in order to curb some anger.

The bill postpones the process of obtaining restraining orders, and defines violence more broadly, including "emotional, psychological abuse and insults."

Earlier this month, lawmakers sought the views of a council of Islamic scholars on whether the law adheres to Islamic principles.

Qibla Ayaz, head of the council, told Reuters that they had discussed the bills briefly, but felt that their confusing language was unacceptable to Pakistani human rights activists.

"Does this mean that a daughter or a wife can complain if the father or husband prevents them from going out of the house? This may not be acceptable to all Pakistanis," he told Reuters.

"We all agree with the intention of ending violence against women ... but our view is that this bill could create new social tensions and lead to more domestic violence," Ayaz said.


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