Pakistan student stabbed 23 times fights to see her attacker jailed

In this picture taken on June 8, 2018, Khadeeja Siddiqui, 23, a Pakistani law student who was stabbed 23 times by a classmate after she had rejected him romantically, poses for a photo during an interview with AFP in Lahore. ( AFP / ARIF ALI)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Pakistan student stabbed 23 times fights to see her attacker jailed

  • Khadija Siddiqui was attacked brazenly by Shah Hussain, a classmate whom she had rejected romantically.
  • Hussain, the son of a prominent Lahori lawyer, appealed a lower court decision and was acquitted n all charges by the Lahore High Court on June 4.

LAHORE, Pakistan: A Pakistani law student has emerged as a women’s rights crusader after she was stabbed 23 times in a busy street only to see her alleged attacker walk free, igniting outrage across the deeply patriarchal country.
Khadija Siddiqui, 23, survived the frenzied attack in broad daylight outside her sister’s school on a busy thoroughfare in the teeming eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital, in May 2016.
Her sister was also injured as she tried to defend her, and the brazen attack only ended when her driver managed to pull the assailant off and rush Siddiqui to hospital, where she was admitted to intensive care with her neck slashed, her arms wounded, and a deep injury to her back.
Siddiqui named her attacker as Shah Hussain, a classmate whom she had rejected romantically. He was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison in July 2017.
But Hussain, the son of a prominent Lahori lawyer, appealed the decision — and in a shock judgment released on June 4, the Lahore High Court acquitted him on all charges.
The decision was greeted with an uproar in Pakistan, where hundreds of women are murdered and attacked by men each year, with many struggling to get justice in a sluggish court system that advocates say is often slanted against them.
“I was shocked,” Siddiqui, who spent three weeks in hospital after the attack and whose back still pains her, told AFP. “But unfortunately it was true.”
Siddiqui’s long struggle to put her attacker behind bars had already drawn attention from women’s rights campaigners, but when Hussain walked free it unleashed a wave of anger.
“I am heart broken, speechless, shattered after hearing what our judiciary system did to you @khadeeeej751 — But do not give up , keep fighting, and we shall overcome this together,” tweeted actress Urwa Hocane.
Hamza Ali Abbasi, another TV personality and activist, commented: “We must all unite & be Khadija’s voice & leave no stone unturned to get her justice against this barbarian! #WeAreWithKhadija.”
The hashtag was trending in Pakistan within hours of the acquittal.
The reaction intensified when the court’s judgment was released, with critics accusing it of “victim-blaming” after it poked holes in Siddiqui’s credibility.
The judgment questioned why she did not name Hussain as her attacker immediately, despite testimony saying she had fallen unconscious; and noted that at one point prior to the assault she had written a letter proposing marriage to him.
The outcry was so great that Pakistan’s Supreme Court has now taken up the case and will hold hearings later in the summer, it announced Wednesday.
Hashmi, Hussain’s father, has told AFP that his child is innocent. “My son is a brilliant student,” he said. “How can he be a criminal?“
Siddiqui’s case highlights how Pakistan’s judicial system fails women, says Hina Jilani, a leading lawyer and human rights activist.
The young law student is lucky in that she received high-profile support and it came to the Supreme Court’s attention, Jilani says — but that is rare.
“There is a prejudice against women,” she argues.
Pakistan is deeply conservative, and violence against women remained “pervasive and intractable” in 2017, according a yearly report by the country’s Human Rights Commission.
It documented thousands of reported violent incidents including rapes, assaults, sexual harassment, acid attacks, murders, and even four examples of “stove burning” — understood to be when a woman is taken into a kitchen, covered in kerosene and set alight; then the perpetrators claim she was burned by the stove.
The real figures, the commission said, are likely to be much higher.
Many cases of violence against women are not reported to authorities. In rural areas such cases often bypass the formal justice system and are dealt with by village “jirgas” or councils, often in a manner that is punitive for women.
But even for those cases which do enter the court system, the conviction rate is “below one percent,” says Rabeea Hadi, an activist with the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights watchdog.
In cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse, it is “almost zero,” adds Anbreen Ajaib, the executive director of another women’s rights group, Bedari.
Siddiqui says women, including herself, are often pressured to drop their cases, and can face blackmail and harassment.
But she is determined to see hers through, and says the attention it has received has prompted many women to contact her to say they, too, are encouraged to stand up for themselves.
“I have been told by the prosecutors... that I’m probably the first woman who is fighting so hard to get justice,” she told AFP, sounding calm and confident.
“It has proved that if women fight, they can turn things around, so they should never give up... they should not tolerate injustice, violence and blackmail.”


British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

Updated 20 min 57 sec ago
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British PM faces Brexit showdown with pro-EU rebels

  • MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019
  • The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a showdown with her pro-EU MPs on Wednesday over parliament’s role in the final Brexit deal, which could influence her entire negotiation strategy.
MPs will vote on amendments to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill setting out how much power lawmakers will have if the government fails to agree a departure deal before Brexit in March 2019.
May says she expects to get an agreement with Brussels, but warned that any attempt to tie her hands could undermine the ongoing negotiations.
She averted a rebellion by pro-EU MPs in her Conservative Party on the issue of parliamentary powers last week with a promise of a compromise, but within days they had rejected her proposal as inadequate.
Instead they worked with peers to introduce their own amendment to the unelected upper House of Lords, which agreed it by a landslide on Monday.
The amendment now returns to MPs in the elected lower House of Commons, where Conservative rebels will ally with opposition parties in a bid to finally make it law.
May’s spokesman refused to say if he believes the government has the numbers to win the vote, but made clear that no more concessions would be forthcoming.
“We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords,” he said, adding that it “would undermine our ability in the negotiations to get the best deal for the country.”
“We will be retabling our original amendment,” he said, adding: “We hope that all MPs will be able to support the government’s position.”
The vote, due on Wednesday afternoon or early evening, could have implications for Britain’s wider Brexit strategy, indicating where the power lies in parliament.
May commands only a slim majority in the 650-seat Commons, made possible through an alliance with Northern Ireland’s 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.
A victory for the pro-EU rebels would embolden them ahead of debates next month on Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union, which they are seeking to keep as close as possible.
It would likely anger euroskeptics, who accuse the rebels of seeking to thwart Brexit.
They are also becoming increasingly frustrated with the withdrawal process under May’s leadership.
Leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve denied he was trying to undermine the government or stop Brexit, but warned that if parliament rejected the final Brexit deal, there would be a crisis.
“That’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat,” he told Sky News television.
“The very reason I’ve prompted this amendment is to provide a mechanism to make sure that we don’t come to government collapse immediately.”
But euroskeptic Conservative MP Graham Stringer said Grieve and his supporters were only interested in “sabotaging the whole process.”
“The purpose of the latest Grieve ruse is to give parliament the power to delay or stop Brexit,” he said.
Despite agreement on Britain’s financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights, the Brexit talks are progressing slowly, and there are few hopes of a breakthrough at an EU summit later this month.
Both sides are still publicly aiming for an agreement in October, but this is looking more and more difficult.
Negotiations are currently stalled on how to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, and neighboring EU member Ireland when Britain develops its own trade and customs policies.
“Serious divergences” remain over Northern Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday after a final round of talks between London and Brussels ahead of the European summit.
The British government has also yet to decide on what it wants from the future economic relationship.
It has been clear about one area, security cooperation — but many of its proposals were on Tuesday knocked back by Barnier.
He said Britain could not stay in the European Arrest Warrant, take part in meetings of policing agency Europol or access EU-only police databases.
“We need more realism about what is and what is not possible,” he said.