ISLAMABAD: Lahore’s Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh, who has been facing criticism for his controversial remarks after the incident of gang rape on the motorway earlier this month, on Monday again blamed the woman claiming that she was travelling without seeking permission from her husband.

While briefing the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights in Islamabad, he suggested that court martial be allowed to ensure discipline in the police force.

However, the committee’s chairman, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said the state had a duty to protect its citizens rather than finding out why an individual was travelling.

He also disagreed with the proposal of court martial and said since police officials can be dismissed from service, there was no reason to introduce court martial.

Lahore police chief again blames Sept 9 gang-rape victim while main suspect still remains at large

The meeting was held to discuss the Sept 9 incident in which two armed men sexually assaulted a woman in front of her children after she was stranded on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

Police have failed to arrest the main culprit even after the passage of 20 days.

The CCPO said the woman had started travelling at 1.30am as she had gone to Lahore without seeking permission from her husband and was returning home “due to the fear of her husband”.

However, PPP’s Senator Krishna Kumari Kohli snubbed the police official over his comment and said he should not make such assumptions in future. She asked him whether the woman had told him that she was travelling without her husband’s permission. As the CCPO said it was his guess, the senator told him not to make such assumptions.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Senator Usman Kakar was of the view that the policeman should be punished over his remarks as, according to him, the CCPO had apologised only out of a fear of the court.

“After crossing the toll plaza, her car ran out of petrol and stopped. From Lahore to that point there are four different authorities and there are four help lines.

“The woman called her relative and he [relative] suggested her to call at help line 130,” CCPO Umar Sheikh said.

He said the woman was later advised to speak to a major of the Frontier Works Orga­nisation (FWO) through conference call.

“The security of Ring Road is under the commissioner. Moreover, CCTV footage could not be arranged from toll plaza and even entry time was not mentioned on the slip provided to the woman. There is a strange system as inquiry number is of motorway and FWO provides help to commuters.

“Although a Major of FWO sent a vehicle, it took time as the vehicle was on M-II. Had the call been made at Rescue 15, assistance could have been provided in 25 minutes. Rescue 15 received a call at 2.47am and officials reached there at 3.15am,” the CCPO said.

PPP’s Senator Quratulain Marri recalled that when parliamentarians visited the area, police said a passerby had informed them about the woman’s plight after traversing a distance of 25 kilometres from the place of incident.

The CCPO said the culprits had been identified and traced within 72 hours of the incident and even DNA samples of Abid and Shafique had matched.

“I suggest that there should be one help line across the country and the law of evidence should be changed. Moreover, court martial should be introduced in police to ensure discipline,” Umar Sheikh said.

Senator Khokhar, while talking to Dawn, said the CCPO had made irrelevant remarks that the woman was travelling without seeking permission from her husband. A police official has resigned due to his attitude, he added.

“The committee has made it clear that whatever the reason of travelling was, it is the state’s responsibility to provide security to its citizens. I believe that in Lahore the police force has been demoralised and introduction of court martial will further demoralise it,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2020