LAHORE: Days after the early release of the man convicted of stabbing law student Khadija Siddiqui 23 times, which also created uproar on social media with people demanding an explanation from the authorities, the Punjab government claimed that Shah Hussain did not receive any “legal remission” but was granted “technical remissions”.

Hussain, the son of a senior lawyer, was sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2017, which was commuted by two years by a sessions court in March 2018 that also set aside other minor penalties. He then appealed against his conviction in the high court and was acquitted in June 2018, which was restored by the Supreme Court later.

However, 10 days ago on July 17, Hussain managed to secure an early release after serving only three and a half years of his original sentence. Activists and social media users took to Twitter, calling it a travesty of justice, especially as the convict was released at a time when gruesome incidents of violence against women were being reported daily.

Victim fears for life, demands security from Punjab govt

Siddiqui also took to Twitter and questioned the ‘extraordinary remission’ of a year and a half given to her attacker and the apparent ‘silence of the state’ about it.

In a video posted on his official Twitter account, Punjab Prisons Minister Fayazul Hasan Chohan explained that Shah Hussain received no ‘legal remission’ from the president, prime minister, chief minister, home secretary, prisons inspector general or jail superintendent. He was granted ‘technical remission’ of around 16 months on the basis of earned remission, annual good conduct, blood donation, labour and education that he was entitled to under the law and Constitution.

Kot Lakhpat Central Jail Superintendent Ijaz Asghar told Dawn that the ordinary remission of eight months granted to Hussain included all the labour work assigned to him during his sentence under the Pakistan Prisons Rules. Every convict, except those convicted under the anti-terrorism law, got such remissions, the jail official maintained.

The survivor, Siddiqui, told Dawn on Tuesday that her security was foremost at present as she felt insecure with her attacker roaming free. She said she just wanted her safety for which she had applied to the police on July 24. “I went to the CCPO office again on Tuesday and met the DIG operations as well to formally request them again for security as my attacker is roaming freely and my life is under threat. The DIG appeared supportive and said he understood. So this is going to be a process now. If I still don’t get any security and such generous remissions are handed out to prisoners, then women have no hope for justice,” she said.

Unless Hussain had gone through a psychological test and she was provided a guarantee that he had reformed and been rehabilitated in jail and would not attack her again, she would remain scared, she shared with Dawn. “This also shows disparity in classes because then the poor prisoners should also get such remissions,” she reasoned.

About her plans to challenge her attacker’s early release by the court, she said as all legal avenues up to the apex court had already been exhausted, the state should provide security to her and ensure such incidents didn’t recur.

Talking about her reaction to the news of his release, Ms Siddiqui said she was shocked and started calculating the timeline in case she was mistaken. “I thought maybe the jail authorities have used their remission powers. But then I asked for details that I didn’t get, so I remained silent and waited for the government to contact me, thinking maybe they’d tell me that they’d do something about my safety, address my safety concerns and tell me how the remissions were considered. But when nothing happened, I took to social media because even when I was fighting my case, it wasn’t just about me but for everyone to know that it’s not an anomaly for a woman to seek justice. Every man should know that he can’t get away with a crime despite all the influence they may use.”

Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021

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