Foul play has been alleged in the shooting deaths of gang-rape suspects
an the legal system dispense justice? Can the law enforcement protect women in Islamabad and prosecute offenders?
The questions remain unanswered even after the police are understood to have arrested the suspects in the F-9 Park gang rape case and got the survivor to identify those as the actual perpetrators. Hope had been raised that the system might work this time. However, with both suspects killed in what the police have described as a shootout, the expectations have come to naught.
Last week, some of the activists who had earlier protested in front of Fatima Jinnah Park and demanded justice for the survivor, held a press conference to demand a judicial probe into the so-called ‘encounter.‘
On February 15, a tweet by the Islamabad Capital Territory Police had announced that the suspects had been taken into custody and that the survivor had recognised them. The news quickly went viral on the social media.
Later, however, the tweet was deleted and on February 16, the ICT Police announced that the suspects had been killed in a shootout at a picket.
Soon enough, the families of the suspects came forward and shared their video messages. They claimed that the deceased were innocent and that the police had picked them up from their homes. The families also denied the police’s claim that the suspects had attacked the police picket and were killed when the police retaliated. A petition on their behalf was filed before the Islamabad High Court.
In a press conference organised on February 17, a panel of lawyers representing the survivor in the F-9 Park rape case alleged that the suspects were gunned down by Islamabad police in a ‘fake encounter.’ They said that this was a case of extrajudicial killing.
Lawyer Imaan Hazir Mazari confirmed that the survivor had identified the perpetrators on February 15. “On February 16 (the next day) the police claimed that the suspects were killed in an encounter at the D-12 picket,” she told the media.
“The police had earlier posted a tweet that they had traced the suspects. Then, they deleted that tweet. Then, they said they were ‘close to’ arresting them. And then, they issued a fake encounter story. They (the perpetrators) were in custody and were killed in custody,” said Mazari.
She also said that after the alleged encounter, the survivor went to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences to identify the bodies. She maintained that her client had already identified the suspects on February 15.
Imaan Mazari said that the survivor was shocked and disappointed that the right of access to justice had been snatched away from her.
Lawyer Farzana Bari added that the suspects were known to be hardened criminals who had allegedly committed at least 50 rapes in Islamabad’s F-9 and G-9 areas. “Police also found their criminal record. They had committed a murder during a robbery,” she said. She added, however, that no amount of criminal record justified an extrajudicial killing. “Be it a terrorist or a hard-core criminal, their guilt should be established in a court of law,” said Bari.
Imaan Mazari told The News on Sunday that the survivor was shocked and disappointed that the right of access to justice had been snatched away from her. “Killing somebody is not justice... They should have been presented in a court,” she said.
“The legal process should have been followed,” said Mazari. “None of that has been done. Obviously, this is a way of denying justice essentially to the survivor,” she added.
Khawateen Mahaz-i-Amal (the Women’s Action Forum) also condemned the police action calling it an “atrocious drama staged by ICT Police on February 16 which is as unbelievable as it is outrageous.”
In a statement issued on February 21, the WAF said that the head of ICT police had not denied, refuted, rebutted or clarified any of the facts revealed at the press conference. “We are convinced that the alleged encounter is a total fake. We also believe that there is a concerted effort to cover up the facts of this case,” read the statement.
ICT Police’s public relations officer Taqi Jawad told TNS he could not comment on the situation as the case was sub judice. “All I can say is that the case will be dealt with on merit,” said Jawad.
He said that a three-member probe committee had been formed, under the Islamabad Capital Territory district administration, to investigate the allegation of extrajudicial killing.
Jawad also produced the FIR registered concerning the alleged shootout, which says that the suspects were killed in retaliatory fire after they fired shots at police deputed at the D-12 checkpoint.
Do the capital’s women and girls believe that the city is a safer place following the death of the suspects? Maham, a girl who visits F 9 Park frequently, says “no.”
“There will be real change when a girl can walk the streets alone secure in the knowledge that the system will protect her,” she says.
The writer is a reporter for The News International