September 14th, 2020

By Rehan Piracha


Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has announced the arrest of a suspect in the Lahore motorway gangrape as civil society representatives called the apology of Lahore police chief Umer Sheikh for his remarks about the gangrape victim ‘unacceptable and a joke’.

In a tweet, Punjab Chief Minister said Shafqat Ali, one of the gangrape suspects, has been arrested after his DNA sample matched with the victim. Buzdar said the suspect had confessed to the crime, adding that his entire team was striving to arrest Abid Ali, referring to the main suspect.

Earlier, Lahore Capital City Police Officer Umer Sheikh apologised to the motorway gang-rape victim and the people for his remarks saying he did not mean anything wrong. “If any misunderstanding was caused, I apologise to my sister who was abused and to all sections of society who were hurt and angered,” he told reporters.

However, the apology failed to pacify civil society representatives who have demanded the removal of the CCPO from his job in nationwide protests.

According to Nida Aly, director of Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell, the apology from the Lahore police chief was too little and too late. “The problem is in the mindset and that needs to change. The apology is mere words that don’t amount to much,” she said. Aly said that the CCPO’s remarks that women should stay indoors after dark meant that the police force was unable to protect women in society. She said the CCPO’s apology would not pacify calls for his immediate removal by civil society and women rights activists.

Farida Shaheed of the Women Action Forum termed the Lahore police’s apology as not at all satisfactory. She questioned why a police officer with a tainted record was brought to lead the provincial capital’s police force, adding that the previous provincial police chief had objected to the CCPO’s appointment.

Speaking of the chief minister’s announcement about the arrest of one of the gangrape’s suspects, she said the government and the police force have made a habit of rushing in investigations once it’s under the media spotlight. Police Departments around the world do their investigations in silence and meticulously unlike in Pakistan, where officials came for press conferences with partial and incomplete investigations into such violent crimes.

Human rights activist, Muhammad Tahseen, said the apology was a joke, adding that he failed to understand why the CCPO had not resigned on his own accord. “The derogatory remarks uttered by the senior official about a rape victim were unthinkable and unbecoming of a Pakistani,” he said. He reiterated the demand for removal of the CCPO saying that the government should immediately remove him as well as declare the officer unfit for a government job. He also questioned as to why senior government officials and advisors were backing the said officer.

Tahseen explained that tagging the place of incident as Lahore motorway was a misnomer saying the gangrape happened just a kilometer away from the Gujjarpura police limits in the provincial capital. “Calling it Lahore motorway rape case is confusing people as if the incident happened at a faraway place or town. The place of incident is Lahore city.”