The telephone rang and the voice on the other end of the line delivered a hammer blow. His ears buzzed, his pulse fluttered and he fell to the ground upon hearing what the man said:
“Your daughter has been subjected to a brutal knife attack. Please reach Services Hospital quickly.”
I can’t even begin to imagine the ordeal my father went through from the moment he received this call. Or how my mother pretended to stay strong and brave but burst into tears when she hugged my best friends, Maryum and Mariya, and tried to console them. Or how this bitter piece of news spread like wildfire leaving my whole family, at home and abroad, flabbergasted and worried. I’m thankful to each and every person who prayed for my survival and speedy recovery.
The horrifying incident of my brutal attack is one which I feel even my worst enemy wouldn’t bestow upon me. It was an attack that not only left me and my family scarred physically but emotionally as well. Trauma I hope no one ever has to endure.
It was a regular day in Lahore. I had gone to pick my sister, Sofia, up from school and waited near my car outside the Ambassador Hotel, which is a five minute walking distance from the school gate. As my sister got into the car and I began to follow suit, a man wearing a helmet came running from behind, pushed me inside the car and mercilessly stabbed me 23 times. Not once, not five times, he gashed me 23 times uninterruptedly with an unwavering force.
When Sofia, who is only six-years-old, tried to intervene and save me, my attacker stabbed her too. Our driver also intervened and tried to overpower the attacker. When a brawl ensued and his helmet came off, he ran away from the scene, threatening everyone in his way with his blood-dripping knife. Sofia, who was frightened out of her wits and shaking in her shoes while trying to hide her screams of pain, looked at me and said,
“Deej, are you alright?”
The pain was blinding. It felt as if my life had already ended and it was time for me to embark on my final destination. I started reciting the Kalima. I opened my eyes and tried to raise my blood-smeared hand to reassure Sofia, but words along with my senses escaped me in that moment. All I could hear was the appalling din of cars streaming down the road. There must have been hundreds of people in the area, yet none came to my rescue. There were traffic wardens managing the flow of traffic, personnel from the Dolphin Force regulating the law and order situation on David Road, members of the elite force standing outside the Ambassador Hotel where my car was parked, people of the city walking by, yet no one came to help.
On that sweltering May afternoon, my clothes stuck to my drenched-in-blood body like a wet leaf on a window. If he had doused me in gasoline and set me on fire, it would have hurt less than what he put me through.
I lost 10 bottles of blood; I had my neck, back and arm sutured by 200 painful stitches, withstood several surgeries for my broken neck and back, and was unconscious for five days. The reason I managed to survive the attack was because the knife had miraculously penetrated a millimetre away from my carotid artery. Seeing the trail of stitches back and forth in the mirror encompassing like a web still haunts me. The torturous moments spent in the hospital with time hanging heavily on my hands cannot be expressed through mere words.
I would lie on my hospital bed and wonder what I ever did to him – someone who was not even a stranger but one of my classmates of two years – for him to do this to me. Yes, this was not a random act of crime by a total stranger. He was my friend, or at least I thought he was, up until the end of my first year in university when I stopped interacting with him due to his intimidating, inappropriate behaviour and frightening threats, which only got worse with each passing day.
However, things between us had eventually become civilised, that was up until the end of our second year when he emerged three days before my final law exam and decided to act upon his grotesque plan of killing me and stabbed me.
The purpose of recalling the events of my attack here is not to gain public sympathy but to dredge upon the lack of law enforceability of a guilty suspect, and the prolonged and nerve-wrecking court procedures which give an ample amount of time to a murder suspect to commit crime upon crime and escape punishment. My sole purpose is to raise my voice and fight for justice. What gave him the right to decide my fate? What gave him the right to devalue my life, all for the sake of his ego? Most importantly, what gives him the right to roam around freely while my family and I have to live in constant fear?
Is it because he belongs to an influential family with a political background? Or is it because his father is a senior lawyer who, allegedly, has considerable influence not only over the police but the judiciary as well?
One might think that with seniority comes a sense of accountability, but one would be wrong to presume so in this case. For here, in the working dynamics of the criminal justice system in Pakistan, lawyers and their ‘friends’ in influential political positions are a mafia of their own, protecting their sons from punishment, more often than we would like to admit.
If the incident wasn’t enough to bear on its own, his family keeps intimidating us to drop the case against him. I feel drained now. Fighting for my life after the brutal attack and then fighting for justice this entire time without any results. Even though I, along with my sister and driver, have identified him and forensic evidence collected from the crime scene all confirm his involvement, I still await justice.
Furthermore, strict disciplinary action should be taken when a criminal refrains from presenting himself before the court at every hearing. They either employ delay tactics or their legal counsel is not prepared. They have absolutely no defence to present in court other than bringing a force of 60-70 lawyers to intimidate and harass our counsel. Doesn’t such behaviour only further prove him guilty?
Influencing session court judges, hurling abuses and offering bribes is a matter of routine for them. When a judge grants post-arrest bail to the criminal knowing the truth, he makes a decision to be on the wrong side and favours falsehood. He too shall be held accountable for his wrongful decisions, if not legally in this world then definitely in the next. The concept of an ‘eye for an eye’ in Islam allows me to strike him back 23 times and take revenge for each and every drop of blood I lost (Surah Al Maida 5: Verse 45).
But I won’t. I will not stoop down to his kind. Despite the abundance of demotivation and demoralisation, I have hope and I will not rest until the criminal, my attacker, is convicted. I firmly believe that my struggle cannot end with me silently accepting the brutality of a male-dominated, political power mind-set. In fact, it begins when a woman is strong enough to fight for her lawful rights.
It’s not the scars that hurt but the fact that the helmet-clad perpetrator roams around freely hiding under his helmet. The lack of punishment for such criminals would mean opening the gateway for criminals to commit crimes and escape liability simply due to the power of their networking.
Pakistan, promise me that truth will triumph over falsehood. My case is with the Honourable Justice, Yawar Ali, and I request him to act upon what is just, keeping in view all the evidence and my rightful plight.
I am fighting for justice and for my infringed rights. Is that too much to ask for from our judiciary? Have I not suffered enough to at least sleep peacefully at night knowing that my attacker is behind bars and justice has prevailed?