March 4, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
In yet another incident, the Punjab police’s inefficiency and apparent lack of interest in tracing a dangerous culprit has surfaced, where even 40 days after an incident of physical assault against a young woman, the North Cantt police have not been able to make any headway in the case.
On January 4, 2023, Aimen*, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was out walking in the area near her house, when she was attacked by a man she says she did not know. The man was carrying a baseball bat, and had threateningly held her in a stranglehold from behind.
“As I was about to step onto the pavement, a boy passed by from my left side, carrying a baseball bat,” Aimen recalls. “He was wearing a backpack and a black jacket but I noticed him only because he had that baseball bat.”
Aimen did not pay much attention afterwards, but when someone suddenly came from behind her and locked her neck in a grip, she first thought it was her sister. “Sometimes we joke around with each other like that.”
But when the grip did not loosen, Aimen began to get uneasy and began saying, ‘Let me go; leave me!’
“I said it twice,” she recalls while talking to Voicepk.net. “But when it didnt work, I turned back and glanced and I saw it was a man. He was shorter than me because I could see the top of his head.”
She says she tried to remember if she had seen him anywhere before.
“Before I realized anything, something hit me hard on my head. I even heard the sound. I started to cry and beg for him to leave me. Then when he strengthened his grip on me, I understood that he would not be letting me go. So I started to scream.”
The attack took place in Lahore Cantonment, an area entirely run by the military and therefore considered the most secure.
Even after the man ran away, and Aimen and her family called the police, they did not receive the help they needed from the police. For example, it took the North Cantt Police Station personnel four hours to arrive at the location even though the police station was only two km away from the scene of the assault.
“We waited for the police…at least 20 minutes we waited for them on location,” she said. “It was after 9 p.m. when my elder sister told me that I was bleeding and that I should be taken to the hospital for medical treatment. She kept calling the police. We approached the Military Police but they also did not take any action. When we reached the hospital, my father began getting calls from the police that they would meet us in the hospital, but they didn’t even come there.”
Aimen says when they reached home at around 1 a.m. is when the police finally arrived. “They listened to the entire story and drafted an FIR …but they did not even include most of the things that happened.”
However, the inefficiency of the police was apparent because they did not even ensure that a medico-legal certificate (MLC) after a medical examination was issued. Only when the court gave orders four days after the attack was the MLC issued.
On top of this, the police did not even share the suspect’s sketch with Aimen or her family and only shared it with Voicepk after repeated requests.
“There is a wonderful little sketch that they keep under ‘high protection’, in their folder,” says Aimen sarcastically. “The sketch is better guarded than I am. The IO told me that they showed the sketch and the CCTV footage to the area residents but no one could recognize the face, so they ended up putting the sketch safely back in their folder.”
But the location of the assault is surrounded by safe city cameras but despite this, the police have still not retrieved footage of the assault.
According to Aimen the police have been also discriminatory towards her and has displayed a ‘victim blaming’ attitude rather than tracing the culprit.
“It was my right to live;” she says angrily referring to the attack. “I should not ever have to beg anyone to allow me my life.”
Recalling the police discrimination, she says, “It may be easy for them…for the DSP, who visited my house and actually told me I should be grateful because I survived the attack! He also told me to stand up just to see how tall I am, when I mentioned that the culprit was shorter than me. For him, it must be very easy to talk to me like this.
Sometimes I feel that they are doing this to me only because I am a woman, They have created such a hostile environment around me…I’ve never thought like this. But now it feels as if being a woman here is a sin, because of the way they are treating me.”
Even 40 days after the incident, there has been no headway in the case and the attitude of the police remains the same. The police themselves have admitted to it – and yet continue to blame the survivor for the incident.
“Only recently I called the investigating officer of the case, but when i asked him the progress he told me they would be carrying out geofencing of the area if nothing else came up – this is a month after the attack! So absolutely no progress there…Then he asked me, Madam, do you go for walks? I said no, He said if you ever do go and catch sight of the suspect do let us know… I said, Sure!”
Aimen also complains about the lack of communication with the police.
“There is no response…zero response…as if they have thousands of FIRs registered for murder attempts and it has completely escaped their minds which one is my case.” In this context, even the filing of the FIR was something surprising considering the police often avoid this.
In March 2020, a report published in Dawn showed shocking numbers about how they show ‘outstanding performances’ to their seniors – by not registering FIRs.
“Allegedly, the Lahore police have regularly falsified statistics of crime incidence by refusing to register FIRs on 72 percent of calls received on the police emergency helpline from January to March 2020. This seems to reveal the tip of the iceberg and seems to point out police behavior across the board.”
It says that around 72 percent of the calls were ignored, despite the verification of the committed crime by the police stations across the city. The Dawn report specifies that the statistics pertain to the first nine weeks of 2020 (Jan 1 to March 7).
Out of a total of 9,881 verified calls made by crime survivors, the police lodged FIRs for only 2,163, or 28 percent of the total cases.
According to the report, the City Division got 1,614 calls during the first nine weeks of the year and lodged only 471 cases. The Cantt Division registered 319 FIRs on 1,435 verified calls, Civil Lines Division 214 FIRs on 714 calls, Iqbal Town Division 317 on 828 calls, Model Town Division 337 FIRs on 1,403 and Saddar Division registered 505 FIRs on receiving 1,725 calls.
Because of this attitude, several victim families and survivors refuse to even approach the police. When it comes to women, the attitude is usually worse. This is why incidents of heinous offenses such as sexual harassment, gender-based violence, rape, domestic brutality, workplace harassment, child marriage, acid attack and honour killing are under-reported in Pakistan, with an extremely low conviction rate.
The Global Gender Gap Index 2022, says that out of 146 countries, Pakistan ranked 145th, with a growth of only 0.008 since 2021, and due to the lack of a support system, financial dependency and victim blaming, one out of two Pakistani women do not report violence committed against them. Stigmatized silence isolates the few women who dare to speak out, and the common response is one of disbelief or occasional pity.
While Aimen is adamant about pursuing the case, she has little hope left for actual justice.
“I am only pushing for this case so that the perpetrator is made aware of it,” she says saying it is the right way to move forward.
“To be very honest, I have no hope of getting any justice from these people and neither am I waiting for them to do so. I am a religious person and so I believe that justice to me will only be given by God. But the perpetrator must know he committed a crime. He cannot just randomly attack someone like this! But I don’t have any hope from this system. I never did and now I have even less than before. The way the police and medical staff have treated me, I have zero hope left.”