KHADIJA Siddiqui talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
KHADIJA Siddiqui talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Khadija Siddiqui, a survivor who had been stabbed 23 times by her classmate nearly three years ago, burst into tears as she hugged her father moments after the Supreme Court sent her tormentor Shah Hussain straight to prison from the courtroom on Wednesday.

And so did her mother and other family members as a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa restored the five-year imprisonment awarded to Shah Hussain by a sessions judge in Lahore on March 30, 2018.

Ms Siddiqui, who is now doing Bar-at-Law at the City Law School, City University London, was stabbed nearly two dozen times by her then classmate Shah Hussain on May 3, 2016, near Lahore’s Shimla Hill where she along with her driver had gone to pick up her younger sister from school.

LHC order of law student’s acquittal set aside; victim terms decision ‘a victory for all women’

“For reasons to be recorded later, the appeals are allowed and the order of the Lahore High Court is set aside,” pronounced Chief Justice Khosa after a prolonged hearing of the appeal moved by the victim against the LHC order that had overturned Hussain’s sentence.

The judgement of the sessions judge of convicting and sentencing the accused stood restored, the chief justice said. Consequently, the convict would be taken into custody and would be lodged in a prison to serve out his sentence, the order commanded. Shah Hussain, the son of a senior high court lawyer and a student of law in his final year, has already served eight months in jail.

Shortly after the pronouncement of the court order, the Islamabad police surrounded the convict and escorted him out of the court premises where the Secretariat police took over his custody. As the convict along with his father was being taken out of the court, Ms Siddiqui was telling the media about her court battle. Calling the court decision ‘a victory for all women’, she said a precedent had been set that one could be successful by raising their voice.

The court had earlier allowed both students to briefly address the court on the insistence of their respective counsel though each of them had already spoken at length before the bench.

Shah Hussain alleged that he was substituted by Ms Siddiqui as an attacker because he had parted ways with her seven months before the attack. “She wanted to marry me but I parted ways and was not happy with her,” he alleged, adding that as a consequence she implicated him.

He commented on a query by the chief justice that usually substitution was a rare phenomenon and there must be some reason to that. When the accused tried to present some pictures, the chief justice reminded him that the court had already seen all the pictures, even those, too, which were not made part of the record, reflecting that both were good friends.

The chief justice also wondered why the victim implicated a person with whom she wanted to spend her entire life.

Hussain, however, said she felt nothing but hatred for him after he had refused to marry her. She even accused him of being a womaniser, he said, while pleading before the court to give him the benefit of a doubt when a number of possibilities existed.

Likewise, when the court asked the girl about his motive for attacking her three days before their final exams, she said he was manipulating and making her life miserable.

When the chief justice asked her what she had told the doctor to whom she was rushed after being attacked, Ms Siddiqui said she had only a few glimpses of him and could not remember her statement. She said she felt as if she was not alive after the attack. She also highlighted that the accused had covered his face when he hit her.

Defence counsel Khalid Ranjha pleaded before the court that the girl named Hussain after a delay of five days and there was a strong possibility that his name surfaced after deliberations. Prima facie it appeared that his client was implicated and connected later, he added.

He also argued that his client never attacked the driver when he could have done so.

Barrister Salman Safdar, counsel for Ms Siddiqui, argued that she fell unconscious after being attacked. He said she even declared the doctor a stranger as she was not fully conscious. Soon after regaining her senses, she named Hussain as the attacker, the lawyer said. He then argued that the LHC did not correctly examine the evidence about motive for the killing.

At this, the chief justice said that usually the motive for killing in such cases was either boys’ obsessive possessiveness or blackmailing on the part of girls. But to shoot someone was easier than stabbing multiple times, he observed.

The trial court on July 29, 2017 had awarded a seven-year jail term to Hussain under Section 324 (attempted murder), two years under Section 337A(i) (causing injuries), five years under Section 337A(ii), one year under Section 337F(i), three years under Section 337F(ii) and five years under Section 337F(iv) of Pakistan Penal Code.

Later, the sessions court in March 2018 commuted the rigorous imprisonment by five years awarded by the trial court while setting aside other minor penalties.

Hussain then moved an appeal against his conviction before the LHC and was acquitted in June 2018.

Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem of the high court had held that the injured witness ordinarily was not disbelieved but the circumstances of this case compelled the bench to disbelieve the injured prosecution witness.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019