A Lahore anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Saturday sentenced the two main accused in the motorway gangrape case — Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali — to death and life imprisonment.
ATC judge Arshad Hussain Bhatta announced the verdict at Lahore's Camp Jail where the two accused have been imprisoned. The judgement was announced in the presence of the accused and prosecution team.
The accused were also fined Rs50,000 each.
The ATC had concluded trial proceedings in the case on Thursday after the defence completed its arguments. The accused had sexually assaulted a Pakistan-origin French woman in front of her children last year, while her car had developed a fault on the highway.
Gujjarpura police had lodged the FIR No 1369/20 under sections 376, 392 and 427 of the Pakistan Penal Code and section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
The prosecution presented 53 witnesses, including the survivor, the complainant of the FIR and the person who reported the incident on the police emergency helpline.
The rape survivor recorded her statement and also identified suspects Malhi and Ali, who confessed to have committed the crime in police custody, but later during the trial denied the charges.
Prime suspect Malhi had also snatched over Rs100,000 cash from the woman, which he claimed to have spent during the period he was hiding from the police. The police report said the accused were traced with the help of record of their DNA samples, preserved by the Punjab Forensic Science Agency.
The country seethed with anger in September last year as details had emerged of the gangrape on the outskirts of Lahore, with indifferent and unhelpful remarks by the then city’s police chief adding fuel to the fire.
At the time, Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed that strict action be taken not just against the criminals involved in the Lahore motorway incident but also those behind a minor girl’s rape in Karachi, saying such incidents were a blot on the society’s image.
The victim, 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 years of age) into the nearby fields at gunpoint.
Pictures of the vehicle the family was travelling in bore signs of resistance — such as a broken windows.
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, said to be in their 30s, had fled, taking with them the cash and valuables the victim was carrying with her.
Shortly after the incident, the premier had stated that rapists should be handed down the most severe punishments to curb rising sexual violence in the country, such as either hanging them publicly or chemically castrating them.
In November, President Dr Arif Alvi accorded approval to the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020, ensuring speedy trial of rape cases with women and children as victims and allowing for chemical castration of those convicted of such offences.