A court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death for raping and murdering the daughter of a former diplomat who refused his offer of marriage.
Noor Muqaddam, 27, was beaten, raped and beheaded by Zahir Jaffer, the son of one of Pakistan’s richest families.
The brutal killing took place at his home on 20 July last year. CCTV footage showed her trying in vain to escape.
The murder caused nationwide revulsion and prompted demands for more to be done to ensure women’s safety.
Noor Muqaddam’s murder by a man she knew in the same group of high society friends had dominated headlines for months.
It brought calls for an overhaul of Pakistan’s criminal justice system, which has very low conviction rates, particularly for crimes against women.
Hundreds of women are killed in the country each year, and thousands suffer violence. Many cases go unreported.
In the days after her death, many demanded justice for Noor. Her family were present in the packed courtroom in Islamabad and were visibly emotional when the judge read out the verdict.
Jaffer held Noor Muqaddam hostage for two days at his family home in a posh district of the capital after she refused to marry him.
At one of the hearings, while being led out of the courtroom with around a dozen policemen, Jaffer told journalists: “I was angry, I killed Noor with a knife.”
The hair-raising details shared in the court shocked Pakistan. Women’s rights activists took to the streets and there were candlelit vigils. Many women came forward and shared their own stories of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Two of Jaffer’s household employees were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for abetting the murder, while his parents were acquitted of trying to cover it up.
Her father, Shaukat Muqaddam, called the verdict a victory for justice and said he wanted to ensure abusers and killers of women in Pakistan no longer got away with their crimes.
“I am happy that justice has been served,” he said. “I’ve been saying that this is not just my daughter’s case, it is a case for all the daughters of my country.” He pledged to challenge the acquittal of Jaffer’s parents.
Jaffer, a 30-year-old US national of Pakistani origin, can also appeal against the verdict.