ISLAMABAD: As outrage against the motorway gang-rape is intensifying by the day, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed has been requested to initiate suo motu proceedings to fix responsibility for failing to protect the victim and her two children.
The request has been made by a lawyer, Mariam Farid Khawaja, through a letter she wrote to the chief justice. In addition, a joint petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Saturday by two other lawyers, Mehraj Tareen and Shaista Tabussum Sultanpur, demanding a judicial inquiry into the tragic incident through a commission to be headed by a sitting judge of the apex court.
Mariam Khawaja regretted in her letter that the incident on the Sialkot-Lahore Motorway showed abysmal attitude of police as Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) of Lahore Mohammad Umar Sheikh made shocking remarks in which he alleged that the victim’s behaviour had led to the incident.
The remarks of the CCPO had shaken the nation and women in particular felt threatened and unsafe in Pakistan, the letter said, adding that the incident reflected the unsafe environment in which women had to live and work.
Moreover, the law enforcement agencies, which were tasked with curbing crime and nabbing criminals, were bent upon creating a more threatened society by passing demeaning and derogatory remarks, the letter said, adding that the incident and the subsequent behaviour of police high-ups highlighted the plight of women in Pakistan.
Judicial inquiry sought into the incident
The incident had brought a bad name to Pakistan as the international media had denounced the abysmal state of security in the country, particularly for women, the letter said.
It pleaded the chief justice to enforce fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan embodied in Articles 4, 5, 9, 14 and 25 of the Constitution through suo motu proceedings in the case and an inquiry into negligence of the police authorities, specifically the Motorway Police.
The suo motu proceedings should fix responsibility on and liability of persons, including government officials, for failing to protect the victim and her children and failing to ensure that due precautions were taken against criminal activity in the area where the incident took place, the letter said.
The proceedings should also assign responsibility and liability of persons, including police high-ups, for failing to provide effective mechanism or taking necessary measures for protecting the life and dignity of the citizens, initiate and pursue criminal proceedings against the responsible and liable persons and take administrative action against liable persons and entities, it said.
In addition, the letter said, the inquiry should also formulate guidelines for safe policing and police reforms and make recommendations for prevention of such incidents and suggestions for effective enforcement of relevant laws.
The joint petition, which was filed through Advocate Jehangir Khan Jadoon, requested the Supreme Court to order the interior secretary, inspector general of Punjab police, inspector general of Motorway Police Islamabad and CCPO of Lahore to probe the incident effectively, bring the culprits to justice and devise a plan for protection of the people on motorways and highways across the country on 24-hour basis.
The petition regretted that Pakistan was among the 10 worst countries when it come to rape as around 14,850 cases of kidnapping involving women, children and girls had been reported in Punjab during the last one year.
Likewise around 10,000 rape cases were reported in Punjab from Jan 2014 to June 2017, the petition said, adding that police failure to protect the people had raised serious questions about the failure of state institutions.
The petition also requested the apex court to fix responsibility for the gang-rape incident due to inaction of the respondents and provide the victim and other women at risk security and protection as per mandate of the Constitution and law.
The petition also requested the apex court to order that the CCPO of Lahore was unfit to hold any such post in police department.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2020