Immediate reforms in the justice system required
It was a bright sunny day for Khadija Siddiqui, a law student, when she walked up to the gates of her little sister’s school in May of 2016. A day like any other? Perhaps not. Minutes later, the sun remained shining but this time on the gashes inflicted upon Khadija by a ferocious citizen of the nation we know as Pakistan.
Blinded by a rage of discontentment and most certainly a distressing personal insecurity, a man, allegedly, named Shah Hussain ambushed the 21 year old girl and, mercilessly, attempted to butcher the poor soul. The motive was clear; to cause pain. Pain leading up to the chapter being shut once and for all. 23 continuous stabs wouldn’t be to merely harm the person without intention to kill. Such an action itself would be sufficient enough to prove the Mens Rea, a necessary requirement to quench the thirst of the courts of law.
In his exasperating fit of rage the attacker struck Khadija not once but 23 times. Much to the misfortune of the attacker, Khadija survived and recovered. Not only did she wake up to a new life but she found an inner strength present within when she reopened her eyes. Strength that would go on to help her in standing up to some of the most psychologically diseased men of the time. Men who remain hell bent upon defacing her character in order to save a child of theirs.
Being literate and armed with her new found fortitude enabled the resilient fighter to stand up to her attacker. She didn’t back down. The girl continued to cry out for justice till such time that the media picked up her story and the Honorable Chief Justice, of the time, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, rushed to her aide taking notice of the delay in the trial. Nevertheless, following a year full of attacks on her personal self, including character assassination in a courtroom, Khadija finally smiled. This was her smile of vengeance. Shah Hussain, the remorseless attacker was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Backed by powerful members of the bar, he managed to evade the maximum penalty, though justice was served to an extent.
The smile was, however, cut short when the appellate court reduced the sentence to 5 years. This order became the first reason to worry. Khadija wasn’t aware of the sort of pressures she would face during the appeal process including, as alleged by her, being approached by the Governor of Punjab insisting for a truce. The wretched victim thought she had had it during trial days. The fighter didn’t know what was in store for her.
Not only did she wake up to a new life but she found an inner strength present within when she reopened her eyes
The veil of justice was, eventually, lifted when the Lahore High Court pronounced its verdict. The inhumane assailant, allowed to walk free. Acquittal, as the legal dictionary pronounces it. After merely serving a year of the original sentence in prison, the attacker now remains out in the open as a free man. The stroke of the Honorable Lordship’s pen was indeed the 24th stroke inflicted upon Khadija. This infliction, the most painful out of all as the pen didn’t lacerate her physically. It punctured her soul. She along with her legal team had their hopes clenched to the High Court only to be disheartened, once the short order was announced, and further disappointed upon issuance of the detailed one.
Astonishingly enough, a lot many legal wizards find the order to be justifiable. They support their arguments based upon the criminal jurisprudence developed in our country and decorate it with some of the factual discrepancies present in the case. In my opinion, it is immaterial that Khadija had a number of other friends or even had a dozen others. The indispensable fact is that there can simply be no justification for brutally stabbing any individual.
As a lawyer I have the utmost respect for legal jurisprudence. However, as a citizen of this country and more importantly as a human, I find it hard to digest the High Court verdict. Not because Khadija’s case is high-profile. Certainly not because of the populist movement in her favour. But due to a deep-rooted thought that is reoccurring for me. I sit back and wonder that if Khadija Siddiqui, with all her media support and legal backing coupled with rights activists, was unable to keep her attacker behind bars, then God alone knows what would become of the girl whose husband beats her nearly to death every day. Or the woman whose son was murdered in front of her eyes and despite presence of eye-witnesses the culprits remain at large.
There will be no justice if such decisions remain acceptable. People of this country need to realize that this isn’t a fight for Khadija. It is a fight for the oppressed against the oppressors. Now is the time to stand with what is right in order to secure an upright and unprejudiced system for the deprived class of the country.
Khadija might learn to live with it over time. But we mustn’t allow that to happen. There will be a 1000 more khadijas in the future if this one isn’t served justice. The marks on her body need to be turned into marks of justice, equality and supremacy of the law. Above all, the marks of humanity.
Khadija wasn’t aware of the sort of pressures she would face during the appeal process including, as alleged by her, being approached by the Governor of Punjab insisting for a truce
If the criminal jurisprudence indeed allows Shah Hussain to walk free then such jurisprudence needs to be reviewed and done away with. After all, what is the purpose of law if it is unable to protect the citizenry of the country?
Irrespective of what the chief justice might do, the very roots of the criminal justice system need to be re-evaluated. Such decisions shouldn’t be rendered to begin with. The Supreme Court cannot take up each and every case itself and pass appropriate orders. The entire judicial hierarchy needs to be re-worked upon. Let’s hope the captain does it this time round.
For all that it matters I stand with Khadija.