Zahir Jaffer was seeing clients at Therapy Works as recently as 2019
Claim: Zahir Jaffer’s time as a student at Therapy Works ended in 2018, when he was removed from his Level 4 certification due to incomplete coursework. He was also not allowed to see clients at Therapy Works.
Fact: Jaffer’s peers confirmed that he was enrolled in the Level 4 certification program but did not complete it. However, Soch Fact Check found evidence that Jaffer was in fact seeing clients at Therapy Works in 2019.
On 20 July 2021, Noor Mukaddam was murdered in Islamabad at the home of Zahir Jaffer. Zahir Jaffer has confessed to killing her and is currently in police custody while criminal proceedings against him are ongoing.
After the incident, artist Shameen Tariq revealed on her Instagram profile that Jaffer had been a practicing therapist at Therapy Works, a mental health institute in Islamabad. According to Tariq, Jaffer was treated at the institute, and then went on to enroll in the certification courses offered by Therapy Works. He was then allowed to see clients as a therapist.
Therapy Works released a statement in response to Tariq’s post and the ensuing backlash on social media, in which they made two claims: first, that while Jaffer had successfully completed his Level 3 certification with the institute, he had not been allowed to graduate from Level 4 due to incomplete coursework, and second that Jaffer had “never ever” been permitted to see clients during his time with the institute. Soch Fact Check found the first claim to be true, as confirmed by Jaffer’s batchmates, but the second claim to be false.
On 25 July, Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Muhammed Hamza Shafqat announced that sealing orders had been issued for Therapy Works. On 27 July, Geo News’ Shahzeb Khanzada discussed the issue on his show. The segment featured audio of Therapy Works’ CEO Tahir Zahoor admitting that he was aware of Jaffer’s violent past when Jaffer enrolled as a student at the institute. He calls it a “mistake” to have let him enroll despite this. The same day, Therapy Works issued a statement asserting that it was cooperating with the ongoing investigation and was the target of “unfounded vitriol” and “baseless allegations”.
Soch Fact Check found the second claim made in Therapy Works’ initial statement to be false. We spoke to a friend of one of Jaffer’s former clients, who asked to remain anonymous. This person personally drove their friend to sessions with Jaffer in March 2019, at Therapy Works’ Islamabad office in F-6/2. The sessions took place on Therapy Works’ premises. Our source recalled that on the day of the first session, there was a member of Therapy Works’ staff in the waiting room, who took payment for the session. Our source also recalled that there was a session taking place with another therapist in one of the other rooms at the time.
In fact, our source reached out to Jaffer on behalf of their friend, after being referred to him by Umber Zaidi, who also practices at Therapy Works and is on their official list of approved therapists. The attached screenshots show our source’s conversations with both Zaidi and Jaffer.
Our source’s conversation with Umber Zaidi and Zahir Jaffer
According to a statement released by The Beaconhouse School System, in January 2019 Umber Zaidi brought Jaffer along as a guest speaker to a counselling session with students of the school’s Senior Boys Branch in Rawalpindi. As per Beaconhouse’s statement, both Zaidi and Jaffer presented themselves as being accredited by Therapy Works. In a video clip included in Shahzeb Khanzada’s show, Zahoor denies responsibility for this incident and states that Jaffer did not attend the session as an official representative of the organisation.
Soch Fact Check also received a list of therapists employed at the institute’s Islamabad facility, which was circulated among Therapy Works’ students in June 2020. The list — which was provided by columnist San’a Mir, who received it from a former student at the organisation — includes Jaffer’s name and contact details. The list also includes the charges for a session with Jaffer, both with Therapy Works’ students and “out-clients”. The details for Jaffer’s mother, who was also a therapist at Therapy Works, can be seen at the top of the list.
Page one of the list received by Soch Fact Check
Page two of the list received by Soch Fact Check
Soch Fact Check reached out to the therapists named on the list. The majority declined to comment and multiple therapists stated that Therapy Works had instructed them not to speak to the media about the topic.
Two therapists, who spoke to Soch on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Jaffer had dropped out during his Level 4 diploma due to incomplete coursework. One explained that diploma students typically get a few months after classes end to finish coursework and mandatory client hours. The latter requirement entails seeing clients as a therapist, under the supervision of a senior. Clients of student-therapists are supposed to be informed that sessions are being supervised and that the therapist in question is still a student. According to this person, Jaffer did see clients as a student-therapist, but was not consistent, and appeared non-serious about his coursework, which led to him being removed from the batch.
Another therapist on the list, also speaking anonymously, explained that, each year, Therapy Works adds names of the current batch of student-therapists to the list before distributing it to students. This person suggested that Jaffer’s name had been left on the list from his time in the Level 4 course, and had not been removed due to oversight on the organisation’s part.
This does not, however, explain why Jaffer was seeing clients on the institution’s premises during 2019, a year after he was removed from his Level 4 certification. Soch Fact Check reached out to Zahoor, who stated that our information is “incomplete” but declined to comment further. We also reached out to Umber Zaidi who was unavailable to comment.
Summary: According to Therapy Works’ official statement, Zahir Jaffer was a student at the institute, but did not pass his Level 4 certification in 2018. The organization also stated that he was “never ever” permitted to see clients. Soch Fact Check was able to confirm Therapy Works’ first claim, but found the second one to be false. According to Jaffer’s batchmates, he did see clients as a student-therapist. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest he was seeing clients on the institute’s premises as recently as 2019.