Suspect in motorway rape surrenders to Punjab police, denies involvement

Updated 14 Sep 2020

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Human right activists stage a protest outside the Peshawar Press Club against the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway gang rape incident demanding an early arrest of the culprits and exemplary punishment for them. — Dawn
Human right activists stage a protest outside the Peshawar Press Club against the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway gang rape incident demanding an early arrest of the culprits and exemplary punishment for them. — Dawn

One of the suspects in the motorway gang-rape case, Waqarul Hassan, surrendered to Punjab police on Sunday, said Model Town Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) Deputy Superintendent of Police Hasnain Haider.

A day earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar held a press conference alongside Law Minister Raja Basharat, Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan and Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani in which he announced that the government had been able to trace the "real culprits" in the case.

"I want to inform you all, [we] have been able to identify the real culprits in this tragic incident in less than 72 hours," Buzdar told the news conference.

IGP Ghani said it was confirmed through scientific evidence that the primary suspect in the case was Abid Ali, a resident of Fort Abbas in Bahawalnagar district.

He also said police were "95-96 per cent" sure of the identity of Ali's accomplice, 37-year-old Waqarul Hassan, whose presence at the crime scene was shown by telephone data. They were also able to obtain his address and CNIC number. The IGP said that police were ready to conduct raids at their houses and arrest them but "unfortunately the information had gone into the public domain" and the suspects had fled.

On Sunday, DSP Haider conducted a raid in Sheikhupura to arrest Hassan. Police were unable to arrest him but his friend assured them that Hassan would surrender soon.

Later in the day, Hassan and his friend approached the police and surrendered. Hassan said that he had nothing to do with the rape.

He told the police that he has a spare parts workshop and he was in Lahore on the day of the incident to purchase spare parts.

DSP Haider said that Hassan has been taken into custody as the investigation continues. According to officials, Hassan had been released in one of two robbery cases only 14 days ago.

Country outraged

The victim, in early 30s and 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 petrol. As she tried to arrange for help, two men approached her and took her and her children (below 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 reached the scene, the attackers had fled, taking with them the cash and valuables the victim was carrying with her.

The country has been seething with anger as details emerged of the gang-rape, with protests held on Saturday in parts of the country. The indifferent and unhelpful remarks by Lahore's police chief added fuel to the fire.

CCPO Umer Sheikh on Thursday invited criticism when he pontificated that the victim had failed to take due precautions before setting off for her journey. According to the Lahore police chief’s logic, the woman could have avoided being at the wrong place at the wrong time. He said she should have taken the more populated GT Road to Gujranwala instead of going via motorway, and that she ought to have checked how much fuel her car had before setting off.

During yesterday's presser, Chief Minister Buzdar said the IGP had issued a show-cause notice to the CCPO and sought a written reply within seven days.

“When we receive the CCPO’s written reply, we will take legal action accordingly,” he added.

Previous records

According to reports, Abid Ali, along with his four accomplices, had allegedly raped a woman and her 15-year-old daughter on June 15, 2013.

IGP Ghani during Saturday's presser told the media that Ali, now 28, had previously used four mobile numbers that he got discontinued, and was currently using a fifth number that gave police a lead about the co-suspect Hassan. He said Ali had fled along with his wife, as police found a girl, a nikahnama and some other documents from his house. “Police are on the hunt for the men,” he had said.

Ali, said to be a serial rapist, was booked in seven criminal cases between 2013 and 2017, including two related to gang-rape incidents.