A rise in sexual assault incidents in Islamabad causes concern amongst citizens
pizza delivery boy was kidnapped and gang-raped near Tramri Chowk last week. The incident took place in a Koral police precinct.
Also last week, a bearded man sexually assaulted a burqa-clad woman in Sector I-10. The area falls under the Sabzi Mandi police station.
Dr Akbar Nasir Khan, the inspector general of Islamabad police, tells The News on Sunday that the police have arrested the people who kidnapped and gang-raped the pizza delivery boy.
The food delivery trend has increased in recent years with the growing use of smart phone applications. There are several food delivery networks that use proper apps and tracking systems. However, a lot of unregistered set-ups have also popped up in the city. They are particularly popular in suburban and rural areas. In the absence of a track and trace system, their workers are vulnerable to street crime.
This is not the first time that a food delivery boy has been sexually assaulted in Islamabad. Last year, several students of a university had gang-raped and detained a pizza delivery boy at a university hostel.
The delivery boy in that case had been a student from another top-ranked university in the federal capital. After the relevant parliamentary bodies took notice of the matter, the rapists were caught and the university tightened rules for food delivery at hostels.
Fahim, a delivery boy with an unregistered network, says that the couriers use their own motorcycles for food delivery. He says they are frequently asked to deliver food in areas they consider unsafe.
“I have never faced sexual violence. However, I have been threatened by people who become aggressive over an unforeseen delay or food quality,” says Fahim. He says sometimes the customers refuse to pay them and they are on their own and cannot go to the police.
The sexual assault of the burqa-clad woman in Sector I-10 has also sent shockwaves through social media. Gender rights activists, clerics and some journalists have been tweeting CCTV footage of these attacks and raising various questions.
Issues ranging from male domination of the society to religious virtue and gender stereotyping have been discussed on social media in the wake of such incidents. Since the girl attacked in the Sabzi Mandi case was covered head to toe, the fact was used by some on the social media to rubbish the argument that one’s clothing is a factor in sexual assault.
Since the attack came on the heels of gang-rape of a boy, the presumption that women are more prone to sexual violence was also questioned.
According to a report on sexual violence against children in 2021, 51 percent of the victims were female and 49 percent male.
“Our patrol units are very active. On a daily basis, three to four criminals are arrested from the city streets. The city is more secure for women and children than ever.”
The findings cannot be generalised as the report was prepared on the basis of newspaper coverage of such cases and their registration with the police.
The number of unreported cases is believed to be far higher than the number of reported cases.
The girl attacked in Sector I-10 has not reported the incident to the police. There were no surveillance cameras in the area so that footage that might have helped map out the escape route is not available. 70 percent of the Safe City cameras are believed to be dysfunctional.
IG Khan says that he is working on the installation and repair of Safe City cameras on an urgent basis. He says more cameras are being installed at Margalla Avenue.
The avenue has been recently built after much controversy and objections by citizens expressing their concerns about pollution at Margalla Hills and National Park area.
The road runs close to the new GHQ, Air Force Headquarters and Pakistan Navy Headquarters. Due to the sensitivity of this area it is important that cameras be installed here.
Khan says that cameras will also be installed on Islamabad Expressway, Lehtrar Road and other busy places.
“Regardless of police performance, the sexual assault in Sector I-10 has left a question for the entire society. Such incidents take place everywhere in the country. The sooner we start thinking about what is wrong with us, the better,” says Khan. He says sociologists, strategists and academics need to sit together to find a solution.
Knowing that some women do not come to police stations to report such cases, Islamabad police have formed a special unit to lodge such cases and bring the culprits to book.
About gaps in communication between the police and the masses, Khan says that a public relations department is being formed to address the problem.
Commenting on the recent cases, he says, “Our patrol units are very active. On a daily basis, three to four criminals are arrested from city streets. The city is more secure for women and children than ever.”
During the tenure of his predecessor, Amir Zulfiqar, Islamabad was declared the safest city in the country. Compared to Rawalpindi, the city is still safer in terms of street crime.
The writer teaches development support communication at International Islamic University Islamabad. Twitter: @HassanShehzadZ Email: Hassan.email@example.com