–Lahore CCPO victim-blames female traveller for motorway rape
LAHORE: While the Punjab government arrested 12 men suspected of involvement in gang-rape of a woman on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway a day earlier, Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh questioned the choices of the victim, saying the woman should have taken a less deserted route and checked her petrol level before embarking on the journey.
On Tuesday night, two robbers had gang-raped a mother of two on the motorway within Gujjarpura police’s jurisdiction.The woman’s car had stopped after running out of fuel, and the motorway helpline was not responding. In this time, two men broke her car window, pulled the woman out, raped her, and stole her purse, which contained Rs100,000 in cash, a bracelet, the car registration papers, and three ATM cards. In this time, two men broke her car window, pulled the woman out, raped her, and stole her purse, which contained Rs100,000 in cash, a bracelet, the car registration papers, and three ATM cards.
According to a police official, the woman’s vehicle after crossing the toll plaza on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway had stalled either due to a shortage of petrol or some fault. Meanwhile, she sent her location to a relative in Gujranwala, who asked her to call the motorway police helpline, while he also left from home towards her location. When he reached the location, he found the woman terrified with her clothes stained with blood, the official added.
The police official said that two armed men found the woman alone, took her and her children to a nearby field at gunpoint and gang-raped her, adding that police had formed teams to trace the culprits. The Gujjarpura police registered a case, while motorway police spokesman said that they had not been able to take action as the incident did not occur in the limits of Motorway Police.
On Thursday, the CCPO, who was speaking to a private television channel, said that he was surprised the woman, a mother of three travelling alone at night, chose to travel through Ring Road instead of taking the GT Road that was relatively “safer”.
“If she had decided to travel via motorway, she should have checked her fuel tank because there were no petrol pumps on that route,” he said.
However, CCPO Lahore Omar Sheikh, while speaking to Pakistan Today, explained that his statement was being mistaken. “I did not mean to imply that the woman was wrong or that I did not blame her for the incident, but rather she should check all the necessary things before going on a trip. The Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is also that when you go out for a journey, everything should be checked. This conversation of mine is being distorted. If the woman was travelling, she should have checked the fuel,” he said.
Later in the day, Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that providing safety to the masses was the state’s responsibility.
Talking about the CCPO’s statement, he said that he did not agree with the statement the police officer made, however, he had “not said anything illegal”.
“What action should we take against the CCPO? That he did not make a good statement?” he asked, over calls for the CCPO’s removal.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that the CCPO should be ashamed, and if is unable to perform his duties then he should leave his post.
“Nobody has given him the right to make such comments […] She must have left for some urgent work,” he said, adding that providing safety to the people was the state’s responsibility.
Khan, advising the police officer to not be a “moral brigade”, said that each and every citizen of Pakistan is free to walk on the streets of the country any time they want. “Who are you to comment on it?” he asked the CCPO Lahore.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, in a tweet, said, “CCPO Lahore was conveyed objections of [federal government] on his remarks yesterday. It is [the] responsibility of all govt functionaries esp police to ensure safety for all.”
He said that police were “working around the clock” to solve the case. “Police working around the clock to solve this crime however it is my request that the identity of the victim must be protected by all be it or press and police. We all have to make our society safe and liveable for all,” he tweeted.
Earlier, Akbar admitted the government’s “administrative failure” in the Lahore motorway rape case, vowing that culprits will be apprehended at all costs.
“There is some administrative failure [in the case] that we must admit since it took place on the link road that connects the two motorways,” Akbar told a news conference, flanked by CCPO Lahore Umar Sheikh.
Akbar defended the Lahore CCPO’s statement which raised a lot of eyebrows after the cop blamed the rape victim for her choice of route and travelling late at night. “I see an unneeded controversy was created out of the CCPO’s earlier statement,” said Akbar. “I have spoken to him about it, he will tell you himself what he meant by it.”
The prime minister’s aide said that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that roads, motorways, streets and highways were safe for men and women to travel.
“If a case such as this takes place, it is also the government’s job to arrest the culprits and make an example out of them,” he said.
Responding to a question about the person who had filed the complaint of the rape, Akbar said that it was not appropriate to disclose the identity of the victim or the person who had filed the case.
“We all have mothers, daughters and sisters,” he said, urging media to keep the identity of the victim a secret even if they find out about it.
Separately, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani said that the law enforcement agency has obtained evidence that will lead them to the culprits behind the disturbing motorway rape and robbery case.
“We have done great work so far in the motorway rape case. We have located the village from which the suspects were from,” the IGP said while talking to a private television channel. He also said that 20 police teams are working on the case and are being overseen by a deputy inspector-general.
Ghani shared that the victim of the heinous crime had provided ages and other identifying features of the suspects. “Right now, we have a very good clue which will lead us to the suspects directly. However, we cannot share it with the media yet,” Ghani said.
He also shared that police have obtained the complete voter list and record from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of the area where the suspects are believed to have hailed from.
The Punjab police chief shared that they have narrowed down the list suspects to 70 people who fall in the same age bracket as the rapists and who have a past criminal record. He added that police teams are tracking down the people who fit the profile.
Police also carried out geofencing in the area where the incident occurred and are awaiting the report. Ghani said that the woman’s children, who were forced to witness the horrific crime, are now with their family, who have been assured that they will be provided all kinds of support. He said that the victims of the attack would be in a much better state when the suspects are arrested.
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, earlier in the day, had directed the newly-appointed IGP to arrest the rapists of a woman commuter on the motorway and ensure law and order in the province. During a meeting with the IGP, the governor had said that justice must be provided to the victim without any delay, adding that maintaining law and order in the province was the responsibility of the police.
Earlier, reacting to the case, Punjab government spokesperson Musarrat Cheema said in a tweet the Punjab Police and related departments were “working in close coordination to capture those involved in [the] painful motorway incident”. “So far 12 suspects have been arrested and search is going on,” she tweeted.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said after the incident that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had directed Lahore CCPO Sheikh to lead the investigation.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar took “strict notice” of the incident last night and directed IGP Ghani to submit a report. Buzdar gave instructions for arresting those involved in the incident as quickly as possible, adding that “justice would be provided to the woman”.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said that the ministry’s regional office “immediately asked for an action report from the police”. The ministry received the report as well as a copy of the first information report (FIR) of the incident, she added.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA) Shehbaz Sharif condemned the incident and vowed to stand with the family “till justice is served”. “This is a matter of national embarrassment and evidence of a completely broken down legal system,” Shehbaz added.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader asked the government to use techniques like the ones employed in the Zainab case.
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz called for an end to “culture that encourages impunity”.