Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Friday expressed regret over the gang-rape of a woman on the motorway near Lahore, saying such incidents were reflective of a "politicised" police force that has failed to provide adequate protection to citizens' lives and property.
The top judge's strong criticism of the state of affairs of police and the government's role in it came during his speech at the closing ceremony of a training workshop for District Commercial Court judges in Lahore.
Justice Ahmed in his address noted that "effective policing" was indispensable for the government to perform its prime function of maintaining law and order.
"However, what we see is that policing in the country has been politicised, the result of which is that the life and property of the people are not safe and even innocent travellers on the highway meet serious crime[s] like the one we [had] two days back," he said, according to a transcript of his speech.
The chief justice said it was "shameful" to note that neither any security system nor a safety mechanism had been placed on the motorway where the gang-rape occurred.
"The government needs to wake up and immediately restore the credibility of the police department by allowing its ranks to take initiative and decide the issues of the police department themselves," he said. "No amount of any interference whatsoever [should be] made either by the government or by any political person in the police force."
He added that policing in the country "seems to be in the hands of unprofessional and inept persons, which [has] seriously eroded the law and order situation of the country".
Justice Ahmed said "recent developments" in the Punjab Police were a sign of "deteriorating policing system and [the] level of political interference in the police department".
"No police force can function as a disciplined, professional force which guarantees to the people safety of life and property until it is de-shackled from politics and allowed to run as a thoroughly disciplined and professional force responsible for its own conduct," the chief justice stressed.
His remarks come days after the gang-rape caused countrywide outrage and raised questions over the lack of security on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway, which has been unmanned since it became operational nearly six months ago.
According to the details available so far, a woman in her early 30s, a resident of Lahore’s Defence Housing Society, was stuck on the motorway with her two children at around 1am after her car ran out of fuel. As she tried to arrange for help, two men approached her and took her and her children (under eight) into the nearby fields at gunpoint.
Once in the field, the attackers raped the woman in front of her children. By the time a police party and a relative the woman had called arrived at the scene, the attackers had fled, taking with them the cash and valuables the victim was carrying with her.