Justice denied

The outrage being expressed at the acquittal of Shah Hussain for his attack on Khadija Siddiqui is different

Editorial June 06, 2018

The social media platforms are easily ‘outraged’ and something or the other is the designated outrage of the day, but few outrages are much beyond a storm in a teacup. The outrage being expressed at the acquittal of Shah Hussain for his attack on Khadija Siddiqui is different. It is visceral, and cuts to the heart of whether or not a woman can ever get a square deal within the justice system of Pakistan. Hussain is the son of a prominent lawyer, and having been convicted and sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment promptly appealed — as is his right — and had the sentence reduced to five years. Now the Lahore High Court has acquitted Hussain and dismissed the case of Khadija Siddiqui and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that she has been stitched up by the legal fraternity out to protect its own at all costs.

Legal gymnastics will now commence, the victim will be abused (again) and her character impugned. There is now DNA evidence in the public domain extracted from blood and hair found on a helmet that was collected at the scene. The blood and hair are from both victim and attacker. The attack was in broad daylight in a public space, had multiple witnesses and was caught on phone-cam. The attacker and his lawyers are reportedly saying that the attack never took place at all.

However the case resolves one thing is evident. Khadija Siddiqui was not the only victim. Every woman in Pakistan that seeks legal redress be it for sexual harassment or as in this case attempted murder, is going to be up against a justice system that is loaded against them from the moment they make their first move. They will be lucky if they can get a case registered, luckier if they can find — or afford — a lawyer and at the top of the lucky pyramid if they can get a conviction. Initially, Khadija had the luck and saw her attacker behind bars. Her luck ran out with Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem in the Lahore High Court. He took 15 minutes to acquit Hussain. Truly a day of infamy.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2018.

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