Noor Mukadam / Zahir Jaffer Case: Of Class Disparities & Our Collective Ineptitude

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Noor Mukadam Zahir Jaffer
Image Source: Tribune

The gruesome murder of Noor Mukadam at the hands of Zahir Jaffer on June 20 has left the entire Pakistan in a state of shock.

For the last few months, Pakistanis across the country have closely followed the trail and with each new revelation, the enraged voices of Pakistani citizens, especially women have grown only louder.

Read: Pakistanis Stand By Noor Mukadam As IHC Fixes Charges For 12 Accused In The Murder Case

Zahir Jaffer PIMS/Noor Mukadam Zahir Jaffer
Image Source: DAWN

Last week, the court got hold of the CCTV footage that visually documented the last few hours of Noor’s life.

The footage that was supposed to be confidential was almost immediately leaked to television channels. Although PEMRA did later forbid TV networks to show the leaked visuals, however by then it had already gone viral on social media.

One aspect of the footage that triggered a fresh tirade was the heart-breaking visual of the security guard paying no heed to Noor’s pleas to open the gate and watching calmly as she was dragged back inside by her murderer.

The guard neither opened the gate nor did he step in to stop his employer. A mere spectator, he stood there unmoved by Noor’s frantic appeals.

The footage served as a terrifying reminder for Pakistani women about how they were unlikely to find support from men, even when their lives stood at stake.

It also triggered in many of us the traumatic memories of inactions by those who could have protected us during moments when we most needed their support.

The past few days, many have commented on the guard’s demeanor and how he could have saved Noor Mukadam by letting her out. Some have even demanded that he be permanently jailed for his complacency.

Seeing a woman frantically trying to save her life, could he have done something? Of course! The footage of him not letting the victim out is certainly very telling of his indifference to human life. He merely had to keep the gate ajar to save Noor’s life, if not physically fight Zahir Jaffer back to keep her safe. But he decided to obey the murderer instead.

Read: Gruesome Details Emerge In Noor Mukadam Case As The Investigation Continues

Yet, I can’t help but wonder that it is not merely its women that the society lets down but also its impoverished and marginalized.

The guard’s crime may be in his inaction, but we must realise that he did not premeditate the crime.

In a society governed by class differences, guards and house help are trained – rather conditioned – to abide by the whims of their “masters” to sustain their livelihood. They are yelled at and abused for issues as trivial as breaking a decoration piece from china. For meagre pay, the lower class does what it can to keep the house running and to appease their masters. And since the lower class is simply trying to survive, at some level they perhaps convince themselves of their incapacity of disobeying their bosses.

Read: Pakistani Twitter Up In Arms As Noor Mukadam’s Murderer, Zahir Jaffer, Taken To PIMS For A ‘Headache’

And so, while it is easy to blame the guard for his ineptitude, I would not merely focus my rage on a man with very little, or perhaps no agency.

I would also blame the neighbors. The neighbors were affluent and educated. Their livelihoods were not dependent on the mercy of Zahir Jaffer and so, surely, they must have heard Noor Mukadam while the violent argument was taking place outside. Anyone could have alerted the police. Yet no one from among the wealthy cared to do the rightful.

Noor Mukadam’s death has been a watershed moment for the nation. It has revealed how grossly inept our society is at all socio-economic levels to extend help to a woman in need. But that’s not the only takeaway. The Noor Mukadam / Zahir Jaffer case has also taught us that as a whole we lack the most basic of decency and cognitive skills to recognize wrong from right and take action without making excuses to stay away from “other people’s mess.”