Court decision to release Shah Hussain shocks nation, but Siddiqui remains optimistic that justice will prevail
LAHORE—In Pakistan, a majority-Muslim country with a population of 220 million, Khadija Siddiqui, 23, has emerged as an icon of “resistance” against the influential elite. Since she was brutally attacked by a friend and fellow classmate two years ago, life has not been the same for the final-year law student. Siddiqui and Shah Hussain were both studying at a college in Lahore before a minor dispute created a rift between the victim and her alleged attacker.
“We didn’t speak for ten months,” Siddiqui told The Media Line.
A frustrated and angry Hussain began stalking her thereafter.
“He had been threatening me with dire consequences,” she added.
These were no empty threats.
On May 3, 2016, Hussain allegedly stabbed Khadija in the neck and chest 23 times in broad daylight in the heart of Lahore, one of Pakistan’s largest cities and the capital of Punjab province.
The suspect managed to flee the scene, leaving Siddiqui in a pool of blood. She was rushed to hospital where doctors were required to perform multiple surgeries during her three-week stay.
A few days after her release, Siddiqui identified Hussain as her attacker and he was arrested on charges of attempted murder.
Backed by her family and the Lahore-based Tehmina Durrani Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provided Siddiqui with legal representation, she courageously stood her ground. On July 29, 2017, justice appeared to prevail as a court sentenced Hussain to seven years in prison.
However, this past March the sentence was reduced to five years. Then, Hussain, the son of an influential Lahore-based lawyer known for his strong political connections, appealed that decision to the Lahore High Court. Last week, Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem acquitted Hussain of all charges, in sharp contrast to the judge who presided over the initial court case and found the accused guilty “without any shadow of even a minor doubt.”
Monday’s verdict was totally unexpected, shocking everyone present in the overcrowded courtroom. For her part, Siddiqui described the ruling as a severe blow to Pakistan’s legal system and contended to The Media Line just moments after the verdict that “justice has been butchered.
“Even the governor of Punjab tried to convince me to forgive my attacker,” she revealed, “but I refused.”
Disappointed by the decision, Khadija immediately called on Pakistan’s Supreme Court to take note of the judgment, which she believes is tantamount to the “murder of justice itself.”
The events have united much of Pakistani society—including celebrities, civil servants, students and human rights activists—in support of Siddiqui.
“This case was well reported in media. All evidence was in public view. Still, Shah Hussain walked free,” lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir tweeted. “Will any other woman in place of Khadija trust our judicial system?”
A day after the sentence was voided, Supreme Court Chief Justice Saqib Nisar demanded that the official records of Siddiqui’s High Court case be forwarded to him, according to a press release issued by the top legal institution.
Siddiqui, who has resolutely fought for women’s rights since being assaulted, expressed optimism over the development, telling The Media Line that, “I’m sure justice will prevail.”
Pakistan’s legal system is infamous for the slow and inefficient handling of cases. Statistics released by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan revealed that as many as 1.8 million cases are pending in courts across the country.