Islamabad Murder Exposes Lawlessness of Pakistan’s Privileged Elite



On Wednesday July 21, in a gruesome murder Noor Mukaddam, daughter of a respected former diplomat, was killed allegedly by Zahir Jaffer, the scion of a prominent business family. The murder has led to a discussion on larger societal issues facing Pakistani society: “rampant misogyny, women’s rights, toxic social attitudes, systemic elite capture and the statutory existence of legal escape hatches for criminals with money and power.”


As a column by Fahd Hussain, resident editor for Dawn in Islamabad, points out all these have one thing in common: “they represent a collective social and political failure of governance — not in the sense that sans this failure there would be no more murders — but that they form a void that can easily be filled if the rulers exhibit the will and desire to do so using the powers of their offices and of their public mandate. And yet, far from this, what the chilling Islamabad murder has illustrated is something deeply troubling: the irrelevance of politicians on an issue that is driving national debate since the last three days.”


However, “few among the politicians from both sides of the aisle have bothered to wade into this raging discourse with anything that can be construed as meaningfully action-oriented. The domestic abuse bill? Silence. Need for tighter application of law? Silence. How to change social attitudes towards victims, and especially women? Silence. Need to end victim-blaming? Silence. What reforms are needed to ensure people with resources cannot buy their way out of a crime while the poor cannot? Silence. This silence of the majority among the politicians — exceptions notwithstanding — is emblematic of the fear that drives these men and women into inaction; a fear of going against the accepted social grain; a fear of positioning against the flow of organic cultural biases; and a fear of swimming against a perceived tide even if changing the direction of the tide is one of their job descriptions as elected leaders of their communities. Fear, in essence, is a powerful de-motivator for those who believe their success lies in lazy public validation.”