By Usama Malick
It is heart-rending to see the newspapers these days emblazoned with the headlines describing the reprehensible & barbaric gang-rape of a woman who was on her way from Lahore to Gujranwala. There is no denying the fact that the landscape of Pakistan has always been unsafe for the women and this recent incident has proven this again.
To make the matters worse ,CCPO Lahore Umar Sheikh’s ignorant and apathetic comments worked as fanning the fire and due to which he drew a massive flak from all the sections of society.He said that the victim should not have travelled at such late hours and if it was really important for her,she should have got some male member along with her. Do you think that anyone would have bought this explanation? Certainly,majority didn’t..
In the same context, almost eighteen years ago in 2002, the case of Mukhtaran Mai—a gang rape survivor from the village of Meeranwala, district Muzaffargarh—came to light and made waves in the world.She came up and spoke of the jinxed event that had befallen her as a result of the decision decreed by the Panchayat (Village Council). After the ill-fated event,she demanded justice not for herself alone but for the rest of the women too.Out of fourteen accused persons,mere few were convicted. During her struggle, Mai would reiterate this fact that she was pursuing her case even after so many dismaying decisions from courts so that future generations be meted out justice.Sadly,justice had been so elusive throughout her case.She said,while giving interview to Deutsche welle(DW),that she didn’t want other Women to go through what she had been through. Her courage & relentless efforts were recognized by Glamour magazine that named her “Woman of the Year” in 2015.
A similar case occurred in 2007 when Kainat somroo,a thirteen year old school-girl, was kidnapped and gang-raped for four days. And when she dared to speak up,she was accused of bringing dishonor to her family by the village elders. Story doesn’t end here.Her speaking up led to her brother’s murder and her sister was divorced subsequently.Somroo said that affluent men from the influential families of the village could rape any woman they liked and could get away with it easily ,for they were powerful.Somroo is now 27 and still determined to obtain justice against her alleged rapists.
Between the years 2014 and 2019,at least five gang rape cases were reported in Layyah district alone.In the first case in 2014,twenty years old girl was kidnapped, gang raped by three men and later her body was found hanging from a tree in Nawan Kot,Layyah.Secondly,an intermediate female student was subjected to gang rape by the Van driver and his aide in 2019.However,the suspects were arrested afterwards.Thirdly,a girl alongside her male cousin—locals of Layyah—was returning home after visiting a shrine when they were intercepted by four men. They took both of them in the forest nearby and sexually assaulted the girl,though men were identified later. During the same year, a woman resident of Fatehpur area,Layyah was held hostage on gunpoint & raped by two unidentified men in her own house.Later, they cut her hair and threw acid on her which resulted in several burns on her body. Fifthly, under the guise of helpers, some men picked up a visually impaired woman of Sultan Kot locality, Layyah & took her to an identified place where they sexually assaulted her. Transpiring of four rape cases out of five in the last year indicates that such cases have surged during the recent times. AS per the 2018 report of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan(HRCP),an independent watchdog, at least 875 incidents of sexual violence against women surfaced in that single year.This is just the tip of the iceberg as most of the Women remain silent just for the fear of losing relations and being alienated from society.
Moving back to the motorway gang rape case —that has caused massive outrage among the masses from all walks of life—significant progress has been made as the primary accused men Abid Ali and his accomplice waqar-ul-Hassan have been identified,but much to our sadeness the former has evaded arrest by far, though the latter has presented himself before police claiming to be ‘innocent’. Another main suspect Shafqat Ali has been arrested and he has confessed his crime. Surfacing of this case has badly hurt the sentiments of all.Resultantly,different demonstrations are being staged in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad and other cities. Protesters’ main demands include the resignation of Lahore’s CCPO for his inappropriate comments and that culprits be soon brought to book or they be executed publicly so that this may serve as a warning for the people thinking of committing such odious crimes in future.However, recently The Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan—while giving interview to a renowned Pakistani journalist—has expressed his anger over this incident and said that “chemical castration should be used to punish rapists”.
Keeping in view the growing violence against women,be it sexual or physical,the government of Pakistan in 2019 had decided to set up more than 100 Gender Based Violence Courts across the country to expedite the process of dispensing justice in such sensitive cases I hope that this recent event would persuade the Government to complete the formation of these courts on war footing.Being functional timely justice will act as a deterrence, and people will definitely think thousand times before committing such obnoxiously heinous crimes.