LAHORE: More than a week after rights activists blasted the government for paving the way for the “early” release of Shah Hussain who was convicted and sentenced for stabbing law student Khadija Siddiqui 23 times, the Punjab government on Tuesday came up with an explanation saying that the convict did not receive any “legal remission” from the government but had actually availed “technical remissions”.
Hussain, the son of a senior lawyer of the Lahore High Court, was sentenced to five years after being found guilty in the case in 2018. However, it emerged last week that Hussain managed to secure an early release and served only three and a half years of his original sentence.
According to a notification issued by the superintendent of Central Jail, Lahore, on Tuesday, Shah, was released on July 17 after getting “remission admissible under the rules” and deposited approximately Rs 0.3 million at the jail gate.
It noted that Hussain’s total sentence was five years of rigorous imprisonment in addition to various fines. Giving a breakdown, the notification said that Hussain was given “ordinary remission” of eight months and eight days. In addition, he was also given annual good conduct remission (one month) and remission for blood donation (one month). Similarly, he was also given education remission (seven months and 15 days). Therefore, the total remission granted to the accused was one year, five months and 23 days.
Meanwhile, Punjab Prisons Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan in a video statement released earlier in the day stressed that Hussain did not receive any relief in the form of legal remission from any official such as the president, the prime minister or the chief minister. Instead, he said, the convict availed technical remissions which are granted for good conduct and blood donations.
He stressed that Hussain received the remissions as per the law and the Constitution.
Commenting on the matter, a senior jail official while talking to Business Recorder dispelled the impression that the government or the jail authorities granted any “out of merit” remissions to Shah Hussain.
“He (Hussain) was convicted legally and has been released under the governing rules after serving his sentence,” he said and stressed that there was nothing strange in this case.
As per the rules, the official explained that in addition to the president, the prime minister or the chief minister, the home secretary and the IG prisons can grant remission in the sentence of a convict up to one month once in a year. “Remissions in the sentences are grated to every inmate inside the jails across Punjab except those who were convicted for terrorism or “anti-state activities”,” he added.
It may be mentioned that the Punjab government’s response came almost 10 days after the assault survivor and civil society activists caused uproar on social media, questioning the merit of Hussain’s “early” release. Appearing in a talk show on a private TV channel on Monday, Khadija Siddiqui, the victim, questioned why she was not informed of the development and held Fayyaz Chohan responsible for allowing early release of Hussain.
“Yes, our prison rules allow remissions [...] but a year-and-a-half? I have not seen such generous remissions,” said Khadija, herself a lawyer. She also questioned how her attacker’s remission was allowed when the Lahore High Court was observing holidays.
“There are cases pending before the Supreme Court and in the high courts for the past 12 years, so how can their cases be heard so quickly?” she asked and deplored that “justice” is speedy for the influential ones. She added that she had also written to the Punjab Prisons IG Mirza Shahid Saleem and the Punjab Prisons minister in this regard but had not received a response.
Meanwhile, Siddiqui said that upon being informed of Hussain’s release, she had submitted an application to the Lahore police chief for security. “However, I did not receive a response,” she said, adding that she had submitted a similar application a few months ago as well but in vain.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021