February 21st, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
Rehmat Mai opens a trunk packed with sequined and embroidered dresses – freshly tailored bridal clothes, never worn. But as soon as she lifts the lid and lays her eyes on them, she starts sobbing uncontrollably.
“My daughter was going to wear all these dresses in a few weeks, but everything has changed. All she left in was a white shroud,” she wept. “Those monsters snatched my daughter from me. I want justice.”
Rehmat Mai buries her face in the yellow dress her daughter, Rajan Bibi, was to wear for her mehndi and it muffles her wail.
The dresses in the trunk belonged to Mai’s 18-year-old daughter, Rajan Bibi, who was poisoned after allegedly being raped at gunpoint on February 9, 2022, by a man named Faryad with the help of two or three accomplices.
The young girl fought for her life over the course of 30 hours, but eventually lost the struggle on February 11. But prior to her demise, she recorded a video in which she held Faryad responsible for everything that was done to her.
Although the police were immediately informed about the incident, a first information report (FIR) was not launched until after Rajan’s passing. Therefore she was not medico-legally examined for rape while still alive.
In 2021, the Federal Government brought a number of changes in Pakistan’s rape laws through two ordinances to ensure timely registration of FIRs and medical check-ups of rape survivors or victims. The two ordinances were later passed by the parliament and became part of the statutory law.
However, as in thousands of other rape cases, the police failed to implement or even make an effort to follow the procedure under the recently passed rape law in this Rajan’s case.
According to the FIR, Faryad’s sister came to Rajan’s house and left with her to do some work. When the girl did not return after a couple of hours, her father along with his two nephews went out to find her. But as soon as they reached a nearby sugarcane field, they heard Rajan’s cries for help.
Rushing to the source of the screams, they came upon the girl lying naked on the ground, while Faryad was hunched over her, forcing her to drink something. Upon seeing them, the accused fled while brandishing a gun to prevent them from following him.
Her rescuers quickly dressed her, took her to the village and alerted the police. A team arrived and, finding Rajan’s condition quite precarious, referred her to a rural health unit (RHU). She was later shifted to Allied Hospital Faisalabad when it became apparent that her condition was worsening despite basic aid.
She was accompanied by her older sister, Sahibzadi, who recalled that Rajan was unable to speak due to a swollen throat, but managed to tell her about what transpired through hand signs.
“She told me that Faryad and her mother gave her poison and subjected her to torture. She also said she had been sexually abused,” she said. “I told the doctor (at Allied Hospital) all this, but she replied that since it was a police matter, a medical examination can only be performed if the police requested it.”
It is pertinent to mention here that according to the new rape laws, Anti-Rape Crisis Cells must be established in major hospitals in order to perform medico-legal examinations of rape survivors or victims without any delay. However, these Crisis Cells have yet to be set up in any major public and private hospital in Punjab.
The police’s version
Sub-Inspector Muhammad Ramzan, the case’s investigating officer (IO), said that the police took action as soon as they received a written application from the victim’s family.
“The police have sent DNA swabs of both the victim and accused to the Lahore laboratory of the Punjab Forensic Science Authority. The rape allegations will be ascertained once the report is here,” he told Voicepk.net, adding that the police are probing the incident from all angles, including the possibility that Rajan may have committed suicide. However, the police also admitted its failure to adhere to the new anti-rape laws in the investigation of this particular incident owing to insufficient resources.
Why is the new law not being implemented?
This is not the only case in which the Punjab police did not carry out the investigation in accordance with the newly enacted rape laws.
Last year, in a report submitted to the Lahore High Court (LHC), the Punjab Police recorded that 33,000 cases of sexual violence were registered between January 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021. However, not a single provision contained in the new rape laws was complied with in any of these cases.
The report further stated that the Punjab Police required Rs. 4.9 billion in initial funds and Rs. 2.58 billion annually for recurring expenses in order to comply with the provisions of the new rape laws. It suggested that until and unless the required funds and resources were provided, the laws could not be implemented. The court however regretted this non-implementation, terming it unconstitutional.
“Government, before the promulgation of a law, should also consider the state resources and capacity to implement the same, after taking all the stakeholders on board because a good law should be viable, clear, publicized, and most essentially implemented,” the court order read.
The court also held that the new legislation should be extensively circulated at the grass-roots level and concerned public functionaries should coordinate with each other for its effective implementation.