Social media outcry and pressure can be a life-changing catalyst. Khadija Siddiqui’s case amply demonstrates this. The Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, has rightly taken notice of Khadija Siddiqui’s plight and Pakistan’s Supreme Court will now hear her deserving case on June 10, 2018. However, we cannot rest on our laurels, the media and humans rights advocates must persistently amplify Khadija Siddiqui’s plight and purpose. Khadija Siddiqui, a 21-year-old law student in Lahore, was savagely stabbed 23 times in broad daylight on a busy road in May 2016. The attacker, Shah Hussain, was found guilty in 2017, and was served a seven-year sentence on July 29, 2017, for attempted murder, but he was subsequently acquitted by Lahore’s High Court on June 4, 2018, by Justice Sardar Ahmed Naeem, in a session only fifteen minutes long. Legal analysts opine that the Supreme Court would be well advised to treat Khadija’s case as that of a clear-cut conviction. There were independent witnesses at the scene, a favourable medical account, the atrocity was caught on a phone cam, forensic reports confirm that the DNA (blood and hair strands from the helmet) were those of the victim and the accused. Khadija’s fate and an entire nation’s hopes now hinge upon a most important Supreme Court verdict. By rendering justice to Khadija, the Supreme Court would send a clear message to society: that the powerful cannot get away with unimaginable crimes, that they cannot easily score bails at a whim and exhaust victims by endlessly delaying litigation. Pakistan’s Supreme Court now has an historic opportunity to rectify this perverse miscarriage of justice that took place with Khadija Siddiqui. This would send important signals to wider society that pursuing justice maybe ‘difficult’ but isn’t ‘impossible’. Justice is not just about placing perpetrators behind bars, but about setting long-term landmark precedent cases, to pre-emptively deter future criminals Irrespective, Lahore High Court’s acquittal bears proof of a dour Dickensian injustice that poisons our system. Hussain’s acquittal was a sharp shock to anyone with a human conscience. If, for any reason, the Supreme Court doesn’t render justice to Khadija Siddiqui, the legal ramifications would set pernicious precedents — namely that “justice delayed is justice denied” that “might is right” and that the law ruthlessly favours the powerful who enjoy unconscionable legal immunity. Khadija Siddiqui’s tormenting physical and psychological wounds have not healed. Nor have Pakistan’s. Without justice there can be no peace in Pakistan. Activists lament that many women have already miserably been failed by our criminal justice system, including Mukhtaran Mai, Tayyaba, our little angels of Kasur, Asma Nawab, Kanizan Bibi, Aasia Bibi, Qandeel Baloch and Benazir Bhutto. For countless women in Pakistan, whether over so-called ‘honour’ killings, rape, torture, acid burns, harassment or sexploitation, justice remains a misadventure, where Courts issue “clean chits” to cold-blooded rapists and murderers. Today Khadija is the victim, tomorrow it can be any other woman. Such impunity must end. Do we want a Pakistan where criminals like Shahrukh Jatoi and Shah Hussain are free to do what they want and get away with impunity or would we much rather have a Pakistan where women can feel safe and sound? What makes it especially arduous for women and religious minorities is when the accused are elitist Bar members of the legal fraternity, as with Khadijah’s accuser’s father. Such elites close ranks when it comes to ‘their own’, no matter how bone-chilling the crime. The physical and psychological onslaught plaguing any female body bold enough to brace Pakistan’s lower civil courts is harrowing. A sexually treacherous, toxic, patriarchal misogyny pervades our legal system. Despite these obstacles, Khadija aspires to become a lawyer and sterilize the system. Pakistan’s youth must mirror her resilient values. INGOs and public interest litigants must intensify their institutional support to victims of injustice. Justice in Pakistan is so prohibitively expensive it deters genuine plaintiffs. Legal fees must become cost-effective and legal firms should increase their pro bono caseloads. Justice must transcend the suo moto remit. The judiciary must divorce itself from the Bar especially when judicial independence hangs on a razor’s edge. The feuds between Bar and Bench must cease to collectively circumvent favouritism, Judges, especially prominent ones, must be held accountable for rendering verdicts premised on personal ideologies and political self-interest. All this remains imperative to protect those who demand and deserve justice. In a patriarchal chauvinistic society it is especially daunting for women and religious minorities, to reclaim infringed rights; especially when power brokers doctor unfair outcomes. With Khadija’s case, the Supreme Court now has a unique opportunity to hammer a decisive nail in the coffin of such a toxic patriarchal mind-set. Women like Khadija can no longer be treated as “victims” but rather as empowered humans with autonomous agency to overcome life’s barriers, legal or otherwise, so they may breach the glass ceilings till it rains shards of glass. Justice is not just about placing perpetrators behind bars, but about setting long-term landmark precedent cases, to pre-emptively deter future heinous criminals. Khadija Siddiqui’s battle is now ours. It is time for all responsible Pakistani citizens to demand “Justice for Khadija Siddiqui”. This is not a plea. It is a potent call to action from the very highest Court in our land. The writer is a Senior Development Consultant, Rights Activist and Strategic Advisor. He can be contacted at [email protected] Twitter @OzerKhalid Published in Daily Times, June 11th 2018.