LAHORE: Punjab will introduce stricter laws and declare an ‘emergency’ to curb the rising trend of rape cases.

Punjab Home Minister Ataullah Tarar and Law Minister Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan told a joint press conference here on Sunday that a cabinet committee on law and order met under the chair of Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz Sharif the other day and expressed its concern over the increase in rape cases for the last over three years.

The body decided to introduce a set of legislations to make stricter punishments for rape and set up a dedicated helpline for the victims, they said. An emergency would be declared on rape cases to proceed against the accused on a war footing as a cabinet committee would begin functioning on Monday (today) to overlook all these measures, they said, adding the role of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency would be improved for sampling of DNA on a fast track basis and a meeting with the lab authorities was scheduled later in the evening.

They said the civil society, teachers, lawyers and other segments of society and agencies working for women and children in the province would be consulted on all the issues and the process would be completed within a fortnight. They said the family and society would have to play their respective roles in protecting the children from sexual abuse.

They urged the parents never to leave their children alone as in most cases close relatives and neighbours were found involved in abusing the children. They said a special awareness campaign would be run, while students would also be sensitised in schools about sexual harassment.

Tarar alleged that the law and order situation in the province worsened under the PTI as police officers were posted after accepting bribe worth tens of millions of rupees. He said a list of the officers posted on the recommendation of Farah Gujjar, a friend of Bushra Bibi, had been prepared and they would be replaced with ‘upright’ officers on merit.

He hailed the Punjab inspector-general of police, saying he was a dutiful officer and a good policy-maker.

Responding to a query, he regretted that taking drugs had become a fashion in elite schools and colleges and that’s also contributing to the rise in the crime graph.

Law minister Ahmad Khan told a questioner that Speaker Parvez Elahi was continuing to hold an ‘unconstitutional’ Punjab Assembly session, while the one being conducted on the summoning of the governor was a constitutional one.

About grant of PML-N tickets to the PTI disgruntled leaders in the July 17 by-polls for 20 Punjab Assembly seats, he said only those had been awarded the PML-N ticket who had been de-seated by the Election Commission for voting against party lines in the election for the office of the chief minister on April 16.

He said the government was trying to hold the by-polls in a peaceful manner and would disallow the use of arms by any party.

In the wake of an armed attack on Nazeer Chohan, the PML-N candidate for a Lahore seat, he said private guards would be provided to the candidates in all the constituencies where the by-polls were being conducted, so that none could say that by providing police guards the government was showing its support for specific candidates.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022

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