Police have arrested as many as five of the culprits. Investigation indicates that 14 people were involved in detaining the couple. In the case registered against Mirza and his accomplices, police have now added sections that entail death sentence
The viral video of a young couple in Islamabad being beaten and filmed is one of the latest in the horrifying incidents of sexual harassment, blackmailing and vigilantism that have come to the fore in recent times. A small group of people in a room is seen forcing the couple to strip and threatening them with the use of weapons if they resist or complain to anybody. According to the police, the harassers filmed the couple at gunpoint for two-and-a-half hours.
The couple said they had rented a room in the flat, which is standard practice in flats and guesthouses in this area of the town. According to a police official, Usman Mirza, had promised this flat to some other party but had a key to the flat. That day, he raided the flat with his accomplices, apparently, after getting a tip from the guard and started bullying and assaulting the couple. An accomplice filmed them. The video later became viral on social media, a police official tells The News on Sunday.
The video clips of the incident compelled the prime minister to order immediate and stern action. The main suspect – identified as Usman Aziz Mirza, a local businessman, allegedly ran a racket of sketchy individuals. He is now behind the bars as are some of his aides. Police say, he had been blackmailing the couple and extorting money from them for the several weeks.
The video clips shows the vagabond and his accomplices forcibly entering a room in a flat in the E-11 sector and assaulting and filming them. One of the suspects, some media reports suggest, had shared the video with a friend who made it viral on social media.
Thousands of people then expressed disgust and anger and urged the government take immediate action. Prime Minister Imran Khan also took notice of the incident and directed Qazi Jamilur Rehman, the inspector general of Islamabad police, to leave no stone unturned.
“Police are undertaking prompt action to investigate into these heinous crimes. I have received numerous messages from women feeling unsafe and angry. The state is here to protect you and will not spare such barbarians,” tweeted Maleeka Bokhari, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA and the parliamentary secretary for law and justice committee.
“It does not appear to be a ‘moral policing’ issue. Rather, it looks like a classic case of blackmail, using basic video technology”, says Tahira Abdullah, a human rights activist.
“This incident is a typical example of vigilantism. Apparently, the dominant person is moral policing. On the other hand, he himself is torturing, abusing and blackmailing the couple showing extreme hypocrisy and criminality. This is due to weak political will and poor enforcement of writ of the state,” Farzana Bari, the noted human rights activist says.
“Basically, it shows the prevailing crime trend in our society. We see the crime rate in general and sexual crime, in particular, going up on a daily basis. There are several reasons for this including a growing sexual frustration in the society amid a worsening law and order situation,” says Bari. She adds, “Many people think that they can do anything and get away with it amid this sense of impunity in the society.”
Further, she notes, when the writ of the state/ government is weak and there is no rule of law, moral policing and vigilantism gets encouragement and takes a severe form of criminality as we see in these video clips.
Police, till date, have arrested as many as five of the culprits. The investigation indicates that 14 people were involved in detaining the couple. In the case registered against Mirza and his accomplices, police have now added sections that entail death sentence. The counsel for the suspects, however, are pleading that the harassers as “pious” people. Hasan Javed Shorish, the counsel for the victims argued before the court that the incident had terrorised the society. He said young couples were now avoiding staying at hotels and guest houses.
Bari says that a short-term solution to such crimes is to strengthen law and order and end the culture of impunity whether it is in the name of piety or based on some other self-derived tools of moral policing.
“We have to have improve our reward and punishments system. For a mid-term solution, we need to improve our criminal justice system and law and order monitoring mechanism and transparency in the actions of law enforcement agencies. For the long term, there is a need for education to change this mindset of exploitation and sexual abuse – the mindset that we have produced over the past 70 years.”
There are many reasons for such behavior and the background needs serious and persistent efforts to address, she adds. Instead of quick firefighting and brushing aside the issues amid public pressure there is a need to make institutional mechanisms to stop this type of violence and curb heinous crime. “Unfortunately, we notice that people’s rights are on the backburner and not a priority for the government as well as the political opposition.”
“The public needs to be alerted, informed and cautioned to beware of falling into the trap of such blackmailers – and not to blindly trust strangers. The mainstream and social media need to run public service messages; and the criminal justice system must strictly implement the relevant laws – not allowing out-of-court settlements”, Abdullah adds. She says she hopes that the police can sustain positive developments in this matter.
“It is the certainty, not severity, of punishment that will eventually become a deterrent,” she concludes.
The author is a staff reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] , Twitter: waqargillani