ISLAMABAD: Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh recently received widespread backlash due to his victim-blaming remarks in the motorway incident, and on Wednesday failed to show up for a hearing by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, leading to the committee’s displeasure.
Sexual violence against women had been brought into national focus last week after two robbers on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway had gang-raped a mother of two in front of her children near the Gujjarpura police jurisdiction.
“Has the CCPO descended from the sky?” asked committee Chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar after the CCPO did not show up for the meeting without giving any notice or reason. “Top officials are present here but the CCPO did not show up.” He called the police officer’s absence was “unacceptable”.
The meeting was regarding a privilege motion against the CCPO, and he had been given summons beforehand to ensure his presence at the hearing. The backlash and subsequent hearing where due to CCPO Shiekh claiming the woman should have taken proper precautions against such an attack.
“I am surprised that a mother of three, a lone driver […] after leaving Defence should have taken the straight route from GT Road — a generally well-populated area,” he had said shortly after the incident.
Along with criticism from the public and various political figures, such as Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Maryam Aurangzeb, he was also issued a show-cause notice over his remarks by the Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani.
The prime suspect of the gang-rape, Abid Malhi, remains at large, an anti-terrorism court on Tuesday sent his alleged partner in crime, Shafqat Ali, to jail on judicial remand for 14 days. Police also arrested a ‘third suspect’ on the information provided by co-suspect Shafqat during interrogation.
A senior police official said although this third person is not suspected to have been directly involved in the rape, he might have information about possible hideouts of the key suspect and gang leader, Abid.
During the meeting, the chairperson of the National Highway Authority (NHA) briefed the committee on the rape.
National Highways and Motorway Police Inspector General (IG) Dr Syed Kaleem Imam informed the committee that the victim had called the Motorway Police helpline at 02:01 am after her car ran out of fuel. The call was received by an operator named Abid, who told the woman that her location did not fall within the Motorway Police’s jurisdiction.
After the call, the operator informed the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) about her situation, according to IG Imam.
“Who was responsible for the incident?” the committee members asked IG Imam, who responded that the road was managed by the federal government and overseen by the NHA.
Committee members further inquired who was responsible for the victim not receiving timely help.
“The woman talked very normally during the call and did not inform about her children,” IG Imam said, adding that there was “no administrative failure” that resulted in the incident.