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Motorway rape incident: Public fury at Lahore CCPO remarks

By News Report
September 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Shaikh, who has been tasked to probe the rape of a woman on the Motorway, has started his investigation by questioning the choices of the woman, saying she should have taken a different route – a less deserted one – and checked her petrol tank before embarking on her journey.

The CCPO noted that the affected family departed Defence area of Lahore after midnight and took the Motorway route instead of GT Road, that too without adequate fuel. “The woman called her brother instead of police and her brother telephoned the Motorway Police at 1:30am to send a police mobile,” the CCPO said while talking to a private news channel.

Shaikh maintained the victim should have checked the fuel in her car beforetravelling as there is no petrol station on the Motorway. “There are three villages within the five kilometre radius of the incident spot. The suspects broke the glass window of the victim’s car. Blood samples have been taken from the glass. Latest technology of rural and urban police is being used in the investigation,” he said.

The statement of the CCPO drew sharp criticism from various circles, particularly from opposition leaders, and demand for his resignation #RemoveCCPOLahore has become top trend on Twitter.

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif vowed to stand with the family "till justice is served". Condemning the incident, he said that the assault of a woman travelling with her children on the motorway is highly reprehensible, shameful and regrettable.

“This is a matter of national embarrassment and evidence of a completely broken down legal system,” the PM-N president said. He urged the government to investigate the case using quality investigative techniques like the ones used in the Zainab case so that the culprit is not let off the hook at the time of prosecution.

Shahbaz asked whose "incompetence" can be blamed for the motorway — which was always considered safe to travel — to have become a threat to safety. "Law enforcement agencies must work together to apprehend those responsible and serve justice to the affected family so that the public's confidence in the government can be restored in some small measure," he said.

The PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said the motorway incident was devastating as it is. “And to add to this, the CCPO's remarks are a moment of utter shame, disgrace and horror that someone who holds such views is responsible for the safety, security and dignity of our lives and property.”

Parliamentary Leader of the PPP in the Senate Sherry Rehman has submitted a call attention notice in the Senate Secretariat on the motorway rape incident. In her calling notice, she termed it as a heinous crime and the concerned ministry should reply before the Senate on it.

Sherry Rehman, while through his tweet, stated that she was shocked, frankly furious to hear some police officials have had the nerve to ask why the lady was out at that hour. “Too much as instead of doing their job of protecting citizens they are asking why women are driving or waiting for help on the motorway. They need to be dismissed,” she tweeted.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar admitted the government's "administrative failure" in the Lahore Motorway rape case, vowing that culprits would be arrested 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. "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.

He also urged the media to keep the identity of the victim a secret even if they find out about it. The PPP Secretary Information Dr Nafisa Shah demanded the resignation of Minister of Communication Murad Saeed and Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar over the incident of gang rape of woman on Lahore motorway. “The communication minister and chief minister should resign while accepting their incompetence,” she said.

Nafisa said it was tragic incident and all those involved in heinous crime should be brought before the law of land. Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari criticised the CCPO for blaming the victim.

“For an officer to effectively blame a woman for being gang raped by saying she should have taken the GT Road or question as to why she went out in the night with her children in unacceptable,” said Mazari in a tweet. “Nothing can ever rationalise the crime of rape.”

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. He said the statement was irresponsible and unnecessary, though there was nothing illegal in it. "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.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan expressed anger over the statement of the CCPO Lahore and asked him to leave his job if he cannot protect the citizens. In a video statement, Ali Muhammad Khan said the CCPO must be ashamed of his statement regarding the rape case. He said the CCPO is a highly responsible position and he cannot be allowed to pass such irresponsible remarks. He said it is the responsibility of state to protect its citizens no matter what time they choose to come out of their houses. He said the CCPO must step down if he cannot perform his duty.