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September 16, 2020

Motorway gang rape incident echoes in Senate

Top Story

September 16, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The government and opposition parties in the Senate Tuesday strongly condemned the recent gang rape incident on the motorway and called for revamping of the system to rid the nation of rising menace of sexual abuse.

While the PPP Parliamentary Leader Sherry Rehman and ex-chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani vehemently opposed public hanging of rapists, another PPP senator and former interior minister A Rehman Malik fully supported public hanging of such culprits.

Majority of senators, who spoke on the incident, from the opposition and government side, poured scorn on the Lahore CCPO and called for an appropriate action against him for his remarks, “blaming the lady for the mishap”. One senator billed him as ‘Noori Natt’, a villain character of a Punjabi movie, and alleged he was imposed to fix the rivals.

Taking part in the debate after the eventful question hour, Sherry Rehman contended that this issue should not be politicised and maintained that on the international day of democracy, “We should remember what democracy stands for”. She remarked, “It is important that right words are used. Stop calling it an incident, because it is not one, as it did not just happen like that. It’s a deliberate act of violence against a woman. The only word for it is gang rape.”

She grilled the CCPO for his callous sexist statement and noted that instead of doing his job, which was protecting the citizens of this country, the CCPO tried to become the guardian of public morality. She said this was not the time to ask why she did not get petrol. “His (CCPO’s) late apology left a very bad taste, as it seemed meaningless and just done to get it out of the way,” Sherry said.

Then, she pointed out there were ministers supporting his victim-shaming while the PM kept quiet for days. “What kind of message was being given to the public? That our women should not go out and just stay home? Are women and children not safe in this Naya Pakistan?”

Sherry said Punjab Police is being protected instead of the women of Pakistan, who have been told that they are on their own. “That if they travel alone or exercise their constitutional rights as citizens in public spaces, then they open themselves up to attack. Crimes are committed everywhere in the world but this is not the message you send out,” she asserted.

The prime minister, she noted, had finally broken his silence by calling for chemical castration for rapists but public hangings and castrations have not proved to be a deterrent anywhere. She said even the Supreme Court has banned public hangings. “This is public diversion from real, more pervasive issue of chasing better investigation and prosecution of crimes. The crime of rape already carries a death penalty in our laws,” she said.

Senator Raza Rabbani said that public execution would make the society more oppressive. “Didn't Ziaul Haq give public execution, did rape and crime end? Didn't Zia whip political activists? Were flogging ended political movements?” he argued.

Read Article 12 of the Constitution, he pointed out, with reference to public hanging, and said that this would only brutalise the society and hatred would spread far and wide. “What type of state is this that does not learn from its own history,” he wondered.

Leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem said that the status of a woman in a society was reflective of the strength of that society, and the motorway incident had mirrored many old wrongs and new ones as well. He conceded that the police department was not such that one should be proud of, and had a long history of being used also for political purposes, and breed like Abid Boxer and Rao Anwar was prepared in the process. The senator condemned remarks of CCPO and said none could accept such utterances.

Leader of Opposition Raja Zafarul Haq said many ‘criminals’ had been set free on technical grounds. He pointed one culprit arrested in the rape case had eight cases against him, yet he was on bail. The House proceedings were marred by exchange of remarks and insinuations between the PML-N Parliamentary Leader Mushahidullah Khan and Muhammad Ali Saif of the MQM with reference to the Model Town killings and factory blaze in Karachi, which burnt at least 260 people, including women and children. Mushahidullah said that according to the Minister of National Highway Authority (NHA), the incident of abuse did not take place on the motorway but on Ring Road, then the CCPO was responsible, but the prime minister praised him; was the job of prime minister to provide justice or to make fun?

Mushahidullah contended that the government was trying to save the CCPO. “If the CCPO was such a good officer, then why did the Intelligence Bureau (IB) issue a report against him and other agencies as well?” He asked was the IB report incorrect.

Senator MA Saif said the political angle to the incident was very important, as the police had been used for political ends. He recalled how Murtaza Bhutto was gunned down but nothing happened to the culprits (cops) rather they were rewarded. “Had it been handled properly, may be the Model Town incident would not have happened,” he noted.

“Present system is criminal-friendly and a facilitator. One lady faced allegation of possessing two bottles of liquor and it took nine years to clear her of these charges. Is not it time to change this rotten system? Punishment less than hanging will be like supporting the criminals,” asserted JI Senator Sirajul Haq.

Federal Minister for Narcotics Control Azam Swati called for severest punishment to rapists and said CCPO showed non-serious attitude. The PkMAP Senator Usman Kakar said that offenders like the one who had raped a lady in Sui must have been punished but none took notice of it. He noted that Mukhtaran Mai could not get justice to this day.

The PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz said, "I am ashamed to be a father, brother and son, and I strongly condemn the statement of the CCPO, but what do you get from the resignation of the CCPO? Omar Sheikh (CCPO) is the man who will never be sold.”