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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Justice for Khadija: A test for the law, the judge and the justice system!

Farah Adeed |

Law has many purposes to serve in a given society. Being a formal mean of social control, the law is expected to maintain order, ensure protection and guard liberties. When a particular law fails to perform its given or expected tasks, it just becomes redundant and obsolete. Nobody cares to respect it. For a law to be respected and practised, it is necessary that it is implemented in its letter and spirit. Societies, where laws are indiscriminately implemented or, applied; become fragmented and a hub of social evils. Order, prosperity and sustainability demand a universal application of the law.

Moreover, it is now an established fact in the modern world that the process of law is important but the spirit of the law is more important.

So while making, implementing and adjudicating any law, it is pertinent to consider its spirit and fundamental purpose. It becomes only a technical activity, otherwise.

Khadija Siddiqi, a law student from Lahore, was stabbed by her own classmate back in 2016.  She was attacked by Shah Hussain, her own class fellow when she was at the busiest road of Lahore to pick her little sister up from her school. She was stabbed mercilessly 23 times.

Read more: Has Khadija Siddiqi’s case exposed Pakistan’s ‘unjust’ Justice System?

Her driver managed to take her to the hospital where she was admitted and medicated. Initially, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered against an unidentified person. But after five days, when she was a little better, she told her family about Shah Hussain. This is how his name was mentioned in the FIR. This is what Khadija’s lawyer stated.

Unfortunately, the attacker belonged to an influential family. Therefore, the then Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah had to take an administrative notice of the matter and directed the court to decide the case in one month.

Later on, the accused was awarded a 7-year imprisonment. An appeal was filed and the punishment was decreased from seven to five years in sessions court.

An interesting development took place when an appeal was filed in the LHC where Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem observed that there was no sufficient evidence to convict the attacker and thus acquitted Shah Hussain. The judge outlined many flaws in the prosecution process. For example, he noted that she was in her senses but did not name her attacker at first. After almost five days, she gave his name – Why? The color of the helmet was black but she said it was red – Why? This was a routine case but she made efforts to make it a high-profile one – Why? The knife was taken into ‘custody’ after five months – Why? Initially she got 11 wounds but later on, the number went up to 23 – Why? No blood-tainted foot mat was taken into ‘custody.’ – Why? Did she write a letter to her attacker as a proposal for marriage – Why? She wrote thrice Qabool hai, Qabool hai, Qabool hai – Why?

Sociologically speaking, Pakistani society is a very complex and to a great extent, a patriarchal one.

The girl was once in love with a boy who attacked her. It must have some psychological effect. How was she able to speak about everything so clearly and confidently? Just imagine 23 wounds. Moreover, most girls who have secret relationships cannot dare to disclose them before their families. In a society like ours, the first concern is to protect one’s family’s honor. Therefore, better die than confessing a relationship.

Suppose a scenario;

Brother: who attacked you?

She: Shah Hussain, my classmate.

Brother: why did he attack you?

She:  I don’t know.

Brother: Tell me.

She: tears, silence and pain!

This is how things start coming out. This is how names are identified in societies like ours where girls are not allowed to fall in love with boys. This is how things work out in a society like Pakistan. The honorable judge should have kept the Pakistani society, its norms and unfounded cultural beliefs in his mind when he was there to apply a law to maintain its spirit. Application of law without conforming to its spirit makes it dubious and contestable.

As a matter of common sense, the name was probably not mentioned initially since it was about a girl’s ex. It needed time and some social support to be disclosed.

At the outset, she might not be psychologically fit to name her attacker or, probably, the social pressure did not allow her to mention his name. This aspect of her case has conveniently been ignored.

Read more: Is society responsible for Zainab tragedy?

Furthermore, forget about the color of helmet, knife and blood-tainted foot mat. How about the DNA report which was not even mentioned by the honorable judge. According to media reports, “the report states that the blood found on the helmet of Shah Hussain (the man accused of stabbing Khadija) belongs to the victim. Hair samples also found in the helmet belonging to the accused.”

Law should have been followed properly by the investigation officer and the lower courts to maintain its spirit.

But the irony is that our justice system has failed to give justice because it gives technical grounds to the criminals for their safety and respectful acquittal. This is diminishing respect and wish for rule of law in Pakistan.

Khadija’s case is now before a learned judge of the SC Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. I hope Khadija can wait a little longer to get justice.

To conclude; her wounded-body is not telling a lie, she was attacked and she is looking for justice. She is asking for justice. If anyone is listening to her!