LAHORE: The Punjab government has removed the Lahore police operations deputy inspector general (DIG), the senior superintendent of police (SSP) and a divisional superintendent of police (SP) from their posts and suspended from service two other officers in the wake of criminal assault, humiliation and harassment of a woman TikToker by a violent mob at Minar-i-Pakistan on Aug 14.
Also suspended from service were the project director and deputy director of the Greater Iqbal Park.
The assault of the woman by over 400 men on Independence Day sparked a wave of anger and widespread criticism when video clips of the incident went viral on social media.
In the case of DIG (Operations) Sajid Kiani, the Punjab government recommended to the establishment division his suspension from service and further departmental proceedings against the official.
Action against all the officials was taken in a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar here on Friday to review the progress in the investigation of the case lodged against 400 suspects for assaulting and harassing the woman.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Inam Ghani, Law Minister Raja Basharat and several senior officers concerned attended the meeting.
30 suspects held; Chohan says civil, military agencies jointly working on case
During the meeting, the IGP presented his report to the CM while proposing action against the Lahore police’s senior officers for a delayed response to the criminal assault on the woman, a senior official told Dawn.
In the report, Mr Ghani admitted that the police’s response to the call made on the 15 helpline by the woman’s friends at the time of the incident and an inordinate delay in the lodging of the case were reasons enough to take strict action against the police officers concerned.
During the meeting, the IGP faced embarrassment when it was pointed out that the suspects assaulted the woman for almost four hours and the first call for help was made at 5:28pm.
This was followed by three more calls, but the police responded too late, the officer said, adding that the meeting was apprised that criminal negligence in the help of the woman was one of the reasons that led to the severity of the assault.
Following the reports submitted by the IGP and the home department, the CM expressed displeasure over the police’s negligence and proposed major actions against the police officers concerned. He said police’s response to the incident was below the public expectations, and expressed concern over the public assault of the woman and other similar incidents in Lahore.
Punjab government spokesman Fayyazul Hassan Chohan shared details of the meeting. “During the meeting, it was decided to suspend from service Lahore DIG (Operations) Sajid Kiani, SSP (Operations) Syed Nadeem Abbas, City division SP Hassan Jehangir, Badami Bagh Deputy Superintendent of Police Usman Haider and Lorry Adda Station House Officer Muhammad Jamil,” he said in a video statement.
He said the action was proposed over the officer’s negligence towards handling the incident.
“So far, police have arrested over 30 suspects in the case from various parts of the city and the province,” Mr Chohan added.
He further explained that the civil and military agencies were jointly working on the case.
“We have suspended from service the SHO and DSP concerned whereas the divisional SP, SSP (operations) and DIG (operations) have been removed from their posts,” the IGP said in a tweet on Friday.
He said strict departmental action will be taken once the inquiry committee submitted its detailed report on the role and response of other police officers.
Meanwhile, police arrested 30 suspects, mostly young men, in connection with the case.
“We have arrested 30 suspects and nearly 12 of them were present around the woman when she was assaulted,” the IGP said in a statement.
He said the authorities identified the suspects and launched a crackdown on them after conducting geo-fencing of the area and obtaining mobile phone call records.
According to the initial inquiry report, he said, many youngsters who were celebrating Independence Day at the park when the woman was attacked had arrived from Bannu and Dir districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while some others belonged to south Punjab. However, a majority of the suspects arrested resided in the vicinity of Minar-i-Pakistan.
“The police sought help from the National Database and Registration Authority to determine the identities of the suspects besides using other available options,” the officer explained.
To a question, he said some of the woman’s followers on TikTok were also among the suspects. Similarly, police teams were vigorously pursuing the woman’s social media friends who were present when the incident took place, the official said.
He said the medical examination report of the woman had also been issued, which confirmed she had sustained some injuries during the assault. The report showed some signs of inflammation and bruises on some parts of her body, he said, adding that there were scratches also on the upper part of her body.
Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2021