After the recent motorway incident, the number of sexual harassment and abuse cases being reported has gone up, while the public collectively protests these conditions and demands a sense of safety for the women of the nation.
According to a report obtained from police sources, 2,523 cases of sexual abuse have been registered this year. Moreover, 149 cases of gang-rape were registered last year while 132 cases of gang-rape have been registered this year.
While the number of registered cases of gang-rape in Punjab appears to be less than last year, police sources also believe that many victims of rape do not report their cases due to lack of trust in the police department.
Unfortunately, in many rural areas of Punjab, rape is considered as a routine matter; not only that but often after the rape itself, the victim faces blackmail by rapists starts and lack of support and cooperation from the police.
A few days ago, a similar incident took place in Khairpur Tamiwali Tehsil, in which a rape victim committed suicide due to a delay in her case being registered by the police.
It has been reported that a 19-year-old girl was allegedly raped and tortured in Khairpur Tamiwali Tehsil of Bahawalpur while the registration of first information report (FIR) was allegedly deliberately delayed by the police.
According to sources, the police had received an application from the victim and her parents against the accused but did not take any action and allowed the accused to roam freely. Later, the incident was reported on the media, the police arrested the accused on the orders of Bahawalpur district police officer (DPO) as well as arresting the staff, including Khairportamiwali police station SHO Rana Anwarul Haq, for not registering the case and not giving justice to the victim.
Similarly, on Thursday, September 17, Lahore police arrested two accused in two cases on charges of sexual harassment and rape.
Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan and Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Omar Sheikh said during a joint press conference that a young man had been arrested for threatening to rape a girl for several years.
It is pertinent to mention here that the girl posted several photos and videos of the accused on social media in which he was brandishing a heavy weapon.
The girl’s father was also present at the press conference. He said that the accused had been harassing not only his daughter for the last one and a half years but also threatening him and his family.
He said, “After the motorway incident when my daughter raised her voice on social media, the government took action and now the accused has been arrested.”
Police have also arrested two suspects who raped a woman during a robbery on September 3 in the Raiwind area.
CCPO Sheikh said, “This Raiwind incident was not less serious than the motorway incident in which the accused also raped the woman during the robbery. The suspects have also been arrested through geo-fencing, DNA and call data records.”
In response to the question of whether the incidents of rape have increased in the province, Omar Sheikh said, “It is too early to say now, and I do not think it has happened but reporting has increased after the motorway case.”
While the police continue to make claims of success and control, the main culprit of the rape on the motorway has not yet been caught.
According to a statement issued by CCPO Sheikh, no information about the accused can be shared with the media yet.
A senior member of Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD), who was part of one of the raid teams set up to arrest accused Abid Malhi, said, “Unfortunately, his [Abid] arrest was not carried out because when police first arrived at his home in Sheikhupura, he had fled two hours earlier. The second time we were informed of a secret location on September 17, he had already left before the raid. There is no significant help from technology at the moment because the accused is no longer using his mobile phone and even if he is so he does not use the phone or SIM again after only one use. We have also been informed that he has changed his outfit a bit and is now clean-shaven but let us tell you that he cannot stay out of the sight of the police for long because he also needs money to live in hiding like this which he no longer has. Police informants are also on his lookout.”
According to CCPO Sheikh, more than two dozen police raid teams are mobilized to nab accused Abid Malhi, as well as the Punjab Safe Cities Authority, CTD and intelligence agencies.
The deputy inspector general (DIG) informed this scribe, “I do not think there is any shortcoming in the work of the police. Such accused are eventually caught. If this case had not become so high profile, this accused would have been arrested by now. Due to excessive reporting on the media, the accused came to know, and he is in hiding. My experience is that there may be a slight delay, but the accused will be arrested. The accused is currently fighting for his survival and doing his best not to be caught by the police. But when you are socially cut off from friends and relatives, then your efforts may not last long because no one else will give shelter to this accused even if he has links with any other criminal elements.”
Elaborating on the efforts made to arrest the accused in the last few days, a senior CTD official added, “All the travel records of the accused so far and every person related to him have been reached by the police. Even in other provinces where he has visited once, the police have reached there. His ID card has been revoked. In other words, along with the steps taken to arrest the accused, the police have also set up a social blockade, which has yielded some results.”
Police sources spoke on the need to create more order within the department. They believe that in addition to stopping political interference in the police department, it is also important to stop the process of appointing junior officers to senior posts. The 36th and 38th common officers of the police service have recently been promoted and given the charge of DPOs, which has deprived the deserving officers of their rights. Instead of focusing only on eradicating corruption in the police, the whole culture should be kept transparent.