Search teams comb 3 villages along motorway

Updated 12 Sep 2020

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PHP personnel deployed on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.
PHP personnel deployed on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

LAHORE: A heavy police contingent launched search operations in three villages and slums on Friday that were marked as possible hideouts of the culprits involved in the motorway gang rape case, but without any breakthrough.

Four teams separately inspected the crime scene, including the provincial law minister, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani, members of a newly-established investigation team, officials of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and the Lahore police.

Talking to the media, Law Minister Raja Basharat called it a “blind case”, giving an impression that it would not be easy to resolve early.

During their visit, the officers were informed about the three areas nearby largely housing slum dwellers.

Punjab police take over security of Lahore-Sialkot motorway

An official said most of the families living in these slums did not have identity cards or official documents to ascertain their identities. The officers were informed that if the culprits did not belong to these slums, it would be challenging to trace them or establish their identities through DNA profiling and forensic analysis from the blood samples collected from the woman’s vehicle.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Police took over the Lahore-Sialkot motorway’s security by deploying force there. The action was taken following reports that the 91-kilometre motorway was not being manned by police since its inauguration on March 18.

During inspection of the crime scene, the IGP issued instructions to Punjab Highway Patrol Additional IGP retired Capt Zafar Iqbal, saying the deployment was aimed at providing security and all possible facilities to commuters on this road.

Without divulging much, he said that investigation into the gang rape incident was being conducted on modern scientific lines. The official said the IGP has also sought explanation from Capital City Police Officer Umar Sheikh over his controversial remarks regarding the survivor of the incident.

In a related development, the Punjab government constituted two high-powered committees to look into the case.

Headed by Law Minister Basharat, a five-member committee has been tasked with probing into the matter and submitting a report as soon as possible. The committee members are the additional chief secretary, a special branch representative, Punjab investigation deputy inspector general (DIG) and the forensic science agency director general.

According to its terms of reference, the committee has been asked to ascertain facts leading to the incident. It will find out what security and surveillance measures were taken on the newly-constructed motorway, carry out forensic investigation of the incident and examine the immediate response of the police. It will also recommend measures to prevent such incidents on the motorway.

The second team formed would be headed by the Lahore DIG (investigation) and include Jehanzeb Nazir from the special branch, Lahore Senior Superintendent of Police (Investigation) Zeeshan Asghar, Naseebullah Khan from the CTD, Lahore Crimes Investigation Agency Superintendent of Police Asim Iftikhar and Civil Lines gender crimes in-charge Fiza Azam.

Regarding progress in the case, the official said, police were largely clueless despite all efforts.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2020