Days after the viral video of Pakistani actress Uzma Khan getting assaulted inside her home by two women in Lahore caused outrage, the lawyer representing the victim has taken to social media to officially distance herself from the celebrity.
Khadija Siddiqui had taken up the case of Uzma, who had been assaulted by three women and a bunch of guards who broke into her house ahead of Eid.
"This is to announce that we are disassociating from #UzmaKhan case. I understand the reasons of any settlement by two aggrieved women in a rigged system, my conscience doesn’t allow me to be part of any of that, even in a professional capacity. Struggle against lawlessness continues", the lawyer wrote on the microblogging site.
The announcement came a day after reports emerged regarding the case being settled out of court.
This is to announce that we are disassociating from #UzmaKhan case.I understand the reasons of any settlement by two aggrieved women in a rigged system,my conscience doesn’t allow me to be part of any of that,even in a professional capacity.Struggle against lawlessness continues— khadija siddiqi (@khadijasid751) June 1, 2020
The case became a high-profile one, not only because of the involvement of a celebrity but also because two of the accused women in the video have been identified as the daughters of a powerful property magnate in Pakistan, Malik Riaz.
As per a report in the BBC, the third accused woman had been identified as Amena Usman Malik, who claimed that the actress Uzma Khan had been having an affair with her husband. Amena is reportedly the niece of Riaz Malik's son in law.
In videos of the incident that went viral, three women can be seen entering Uzma's Lahore residence along with armed guards. The women have been caught destroying private property and assaulting Uzma and her sister. One of the clips also shows a woman, purportedly Amena, interrogating the actress about her affair with her husband.
After videos of the case went viral, the victim and her sister approached security. While an investigation was started by police in the last week of May and an arrest warrant reportedly issued against two of the women involved in the assault, media reports claim that the case was settled outside court.
The case has brought out the differential treatment meted out to VIPs in Pakistan.
Due to the involvement of a powerful personality's family, many in Pakistan felt that the case was receiving less media attention. Now, the news of settlement seems to have confirmed the doubts of many.
While the reports are as yet unconfirmed by the actress or her sister, the announcement by Uzma's counsel Khadija came by way of confirmation.
Speaking to local daily Pakistan Today, Khadija said, "My entire struggle has been against lawlessness and I want the law to be equal for everyone,” she said. “I did not want this to go towards a settlement".
As per the reports, the lawyer, as well as the victim, had been under a lot of pressure regarding the case. Khadeeja added that now that there were reports of a settlement, however, she would not be handling Usma's case anymore.
Pakistan is notorious for suppressing the rights and voices of women, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds or those engaged in legal battles. Uzma's assault brought out outrage on media as well as social media, leading to a debate about the incidence of infidelity vs VIP privilege.
In her statements to the police, Uzma said that she had been threatened, tortured, and blackmailed.
The case also generated severe sexism against both the victims as well as the accused women on social media as well as media platforms in Pakistan. Several trolls attacked Khan and cachter assasinated her as a 'home wrecker'. On June 1, the actress released a statement regarding the incident, claiming that the fight was legal and that all efforts to malign her were "deep-rooted in mysoginy and sexism".
The case led to several celebrities and influencers in Pakistan speaking out. Many argued that while infidelity was inappropriate and punishable, the fact that certain women could use their privilege to get away by assaulting another was unpardonable as well. Others called out the moral policing of the actress and Pakistan's Zina laws that make infedelity by women a punishable offence.
Two very different topics being argued. One is infidelity - which no one in their right mind stands for. The other is - how the powerful get away with absolutely anything! I stand for accountability always. May we all be treated equally by the law of this land. #UzmaKhan— Mahira Khan (@TheMahiraKhan) May 28, 2020
Let's differentiate b/w what is a moral issue & a legal issue. Two wrongs cannot make one right. The right to security at your home is a basic human right enshrined in law. This is a real test for the authorities,who need to prove to us that no one is above the law! #uzmakhan— Mehwish Hayat TI (@MehwishHayat) May 28, 2020
Domestic violence goes unabated globally, but especially in Pak, where privilege, misogyny & obscurantist traditions combine with discriminating law to target women.#UzmaKhan is a chance for @ImranKhanPTI to do the right thing. Try the perpetrators, regardless of who they are.— Waj S. Khan (@WajSKhan) May 27, 2020