'Is it not their job?': LHC chides Punjab IGP for rewarding police on motorway rape suspect's arrest

Updated 14 Oct 2020

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Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Wednesday expressed strong displeasure over the offering of a reward to police officials for arresting Abid Malhi, one of the primary suspects in the motorway gang-rape. — AFP/File
Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Wednesday expressed strong displeasure over the offering of a reward to police officials for arresting Abid Malhi, one of the primary suspects in the motorway gang-rape. — AFP/File

Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Wednesday expressed strong displeasure over the offering of rewards to police officials by the government for arresting Abid Malhi, one of the primary suspects in the Lahore motorway gang-rape.

During the hearing of a case pertaining to land grabbing by police, Justice Khan questioned why police should be rewarded for arresting a suspect when it was their responsibility to do so.

"Should a police officer wait for a reward before catching a suspect?" he questioned.

"Is it not the job of police to catch a suspect? If they don't do that, what will they do? This is a new technique by the Punjab government."

On Monday, Lahore's Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) had arrested Malhi from Manga Mandi, approximately 33 kilometres from the provincial capital. The arrest came after police released Malhi’s parents, brothers and wife, allowing them to use their old mobile phone SIMs in order to trap him.

A spokesperson for the Lahore police said Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani had announced an award for the special investigation team and the CIA officers involved in the case, according to a report by Geo News.

IGP Inam, who appeared before the court in today's hearing, was also reprimanded by Justice Khan. "It is strange that police is being rewarded for arresting a culprit," the chief justice told the provincial police chief.

"If this continues, policemen will first wait for a reward announcement and then nab suspects," the judge remarked.

The Lahore motorway rape, which happened last month, sparked countrywide outrage after a mother of two was gang-raped off the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in front of her children after her car ran out of fuel on the way to Gujranwala late at night.

Malhi, one of the primary suspects in the case, had managed to evade arrest for a month, prompting criticism of the police and other investigating agencies. Police had at first detained his family, including his parents and wife, in a bid to trace his whereabouts.

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore, which is hearing the gang-rape case, had banned media coverage of the case after the investigating officer pleaded that irresponsible media coverage was damaging the progress and value of evidence so far collected.

Following the ATC order, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) restrained all television channels from airing news on the case.

The ban on media coverage was suspended soon after Malhi's arrest.

Abid 'surrendered' to police

Meanwhile, in a video message that surfaced last night, Abid Malhi's father, Akbar Ali, claimed that his son had not been caught by the police but had surrendered instead.

"My son called and told me that he was surrendering himself to the police. I advised him to come to meet me at 6:30pm. When he came to me in Manga Mandi, where I live, I told the police that Abid has come and I am surrendering him.

"I am a labourer and am old. I have daughters and they're in the [police] stations," he said and requested the police to release them from custody.

When asked about the veracity of the suspect's father's claim, IGP Inam did not respond.