News Analysis |
The Lahore High Court has released the detailed judgment in Khadija Siddiqi case. A few days ago, the court had ordered to acquit the accused, Shah Hussain. Since then Pakistani media, civil society, and social media activists are campaigning against the order of the LHC. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took a Suo Moto notice of the matter and this case has been scheduled to be heard on June 10th, at Lahore Registry of the Supreme Court.
Khadija Siddiqui, a law student, was attacked by her class fellow Shah Hussain, on May 3, 2016, near Shimla Hill where she, along with her driver, Riaz Ahmad, had gone to pick her younger 6-year-old sister, Sofia Siddiqi, from school.
The sisters were getting into their car when a man wearing a helmet (to conceal his identity) came and stabbed Khadija 23 times. Her driver rushed to save her, even her younger sister tried to help Khadija. She was critically injured and was shifted to Services Hospital by her driver.
Initially, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against an unidentified person but later on, Shah Hussain, a classmate of Khadija was nominated in the FIR on May 8, 2016.
A judicial magistrate handed down ‘seven-year rigorous imprisonment’ to Hussain after finding him guilty of attempted murder on July 29, 2017. However, a sessions court in March this year set aside the minor penalties of the convict and commuted the sentenced to five years.
The accused, Shah Hussain, is a law student and a son of a prominent lawyer.
A ‘High-Profile Case’
This case has now become a ‘high-profile case’ and rights activists demand exemplary punishment for the accused to create a society where women have not to experience violence and discrimination. Khadija has also said that “I was determined to fight for Pakistani girls and women who choose suffer in silence instead of baring their suffering in front of callous and heartless men, and the women beholden to such men.”
On the decision of the LHC on June 04, Khadija tweeted and expressed her grief: “Inna lilahi wa ina ilahi rajioon! Justice butchered. Shah Hussain acquitted!”
Prominent journalists, writers and celebrities also raised their voices in support of Khadija on social media and television for Khadija, demanding justice for her. Several articles and editorials have been written to demand #justiceforKhadija.
Warning Issued to Media for Airing Khadija’s “Contemptuous Remarks”
Khadija claimed that “she was called upon by the honourable judge in his chambers; whereby she was persuaded to enter into [a] compromise with the petitioner/convict in presence of his father”.
“She has further speculated that the honorable judge might have been persuaded by the Governor Punjab [Malik Rafiq Rajwana] to pass the judgment of acquittal in favor of the petitioner/convict,” the registrar added.
Read more: A quest to provide swift justice in Pakistan
The LHC issues a statement according to which the news items based on Khadija’s claims are “squarely concocted, frivolous and are being aired/published in electronic/social and print media with a malicious attempt to malign the judiciary as an institution”.
PEMRA and Press Council of Pakistan are directed to submit compliance reports with regard to the apology.
Time to shut the media up. High court Registars sends legal notice to the media for maligning judiciary. I wonder how one judge’s act is act of whole judiciary. It was same judiciary that gave convicted shah Hussain and khadija thanked her. Shocking!!! We believe in free media pic.twitter.com/miEt1gHQ5Q
— Hassaan Niazi (@HniaziISF) June 7, 2018
Khadija and her legal team claim that Punjab Governor Raffique Rijwana told them to drop the case.
More revelations: Khadija was told by governor Punjab Raffique Rijwana to back off. The criminal’s father is lawyer from multan. Governor Punjab is also from multan.Standing for their community member even if they commit butcher? #23timesStabs #JusticeForKhadija #WeAreWithKhadija
— Hassaan Niazi (@HniaziISF) June 4, 2018
Detailed Judgement of LHC
A detailed judgment authored by Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem of the Lahore High court was released on Thursday. The judge had made some interesting observations with regard to investigation process in the country. The judge has written that although star witness had denied suggestions that it was a ‘high-profile’ case yet acknowledged that Tehmina Durani exercised her influence at a later stage and that the investigating officer also said it was a ‘high-profile’ case.
He also stated that Khadija Siddiqi, the victim and “injured eyewitness”, had “not described the true/complete tale”; and that the attack “may have taken place, but not in the manner as described by the eye/injured witnesses”.
The judge further noted that according to the witness the attacker was wearing a red-colored helmet but a black-colored helmet was recovered from the car. However, it is important to note that the prosecution had submitted challan in the court in which the blood on suspect Shah Hussain’s helmet matched Khadija’s DNA. The medical report has proved that the DNA in both samples is same, which is evidence against suspect Hussain.
Khadija’s lawyer said that “Forensic report cannot be altered.”
The judge insisted that Khadija’s clothes, which she was wearing during the time of the occurrence, had also not been taken by the investigation officers for proper examination. The knife, the accused used to injure Khadija, was taken into custody after five months of the investigation from the Jinnah Garden.
No blood-tainted foot mat or any other article was taken into custody during the course of an investigation or produce during the trial, the judge noted.
According to the judgment, Khadija has said that the accused harassed her but she never complained to the college authorities or to her parents. She also wrote a four pages letter to Shah Hussain proposing him for marriage and mentioned thrice “Qabool hai, Qabool hai, Qabool hai” (I accept, I accept, I accept).
#KhadijaCaseOrder the things have been put totally out of context. Khadija did write a letter. It was not a proposal. It was just a letter showing affection and she was 17 back then. Mentioning one line, blowing it out of proportion is shocking.Personal attack! #WeAreWithKhadija pic.twitter.com/nOvb2rSuJf
— Hassaan Niazi (@HniaziISF) June 7, 2018
The judge also ‘observed’ at one point that “mere presence of injuries would not stamp out that he [the witness] is a truthful witness” and that “it is not a universal rule that each and every word coming from the mouth of the injured person is the truth”.
According to reports, there were CCTV footages that clearly showed Hussain, who was wearing a helmet, attacking Khadija with a knife. The attacker was recognized when the girl’s driver intervened and his helmet fell off his head. Hair samples also found in the helmet belonging to the accused.
A timeline of the incident
May 3, 2016: Khadija Siddiqi stabbed 23 times
May 8, 2016: Khadija identifies Shah Hussain as her attacker
May 16, 2016: Shah Hussain receives bail before arrest
July 23, 2016: Court suspends Hussain’s pre-arrest bail
July 23, 2016: Hussain evades arrest as a group of lawyers escorts him out of the court
Sept 26, 2016: Lahore High Court upholds the decision to suspend Hussain’s bail
Nov 30, 2016: A sessions court grants Hussain post-arrest bail
July 29, 2017: A judicial magistrate convicts Shah Hussain of attempted murder
July 29, 2017: Hussain is sentenced to seven years
March 2018: A sessions court reduces Hussain’s imprisonment to 5 years
June 4, 2018: The Lahore High Court acquits Shah Hussain
June 5, 2018: Chief Justice takes suo moto notice of the acquittal
According to the judge, Khadija initially said ‘a boy’ attacked her, she did not mention the name of Shah Hussain. The judge was also concerned about the way injuries had been reported. Initially, there were 11 injuries and after operating Khadija (the details have not be mentioned) there were 23 injuries reported by the medical staff, the judge noted.
The judge concluded that since the charged against the petitioner were not established beyond all shadows of reasonable doubts. He is given benefit of doubt and acquitted of the charges.”
GVS Approached a Legal Expert
Since this is an important case in which the victim has badly experienced violence in a public place but on some technical grounds the accused has been released. As the judgment of the LHC demonstrates that the investigation process has remained compromised, questionable and unreliable throughout the course of this case. GVS approached a law expert and recorded his comments on the detailed judgment of the LHC.
“The LHC judge has rightly pointed out towards the flaws in the investigation process. Many pieces of evidence, which were available, were not collected by the investigation officer. Secondly, the prosecution committed multiple errors. Khadija should have appeared before a medical board or she should have challenged the order for the Constitution of Board. Prosecution should have requested the trial court to summon the surgeons who operated Khadija.
Moreover, the accused was not nominated in the FIR, the proper course was to file a private complaint to make this deficiency.
However, the judge should have accepted her explanation for non-mentioning the name of accused in her first application. If we accept the facts as narrated in the judgement, it warrants acquittal. Problem is with the investigation agencies and the prosecution, adjudication isn’t bad,” a Lahore-based legal expert said.
He further said that “Khadija case has exposed our justice system—not only judiciary to blame for. Do you know most of our investigation officers are matriculate, no formal education in modern investigation techniques?”
“The modern world depends on forensic and circumstantial evidence, while our system relies upon oral accounts,” the expert added.
This is a common trend in Pakistan where according to a lawyer, Saad Rasool, the justice system focuses more upon the process of law, and not on the spirit of the law. Legal technicalities often help corrupt politicians, and powerful members of the society to easily escape punishment even if they commit heinous crimes.
Many victims like Khadija Siddiqi fail to get justice due to legal technicalities which encourage criminals to carry on extralegal activities across the country. Pakistan, therefore, needs to focus on her justice system which has so far failed to give justice to a girl who was publically stabbed for 23 times. It is ironic how Shah Hussein was proved guilty of attempted murder, with solid evidence last year, is now acquitted because the same evidence is being deemed unreliable and as possibly fabricated.
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) June 5, 2018
@HniaziISF your defense and support for Khadija is remarkable, consistent and inspirational. Know that thousands pray for your success. May Allah bless you and protect you.
— Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) June 4, 2018
Country Representative for UN Women Pakistan, Jamshed M. Kazi, issues a statement ensuing the convict’s acquittal in Khadija’s stabbing case.
— UN Women Pakistan (@unwomen_pak) June 7, 2018