Self-immolated rape victims and the inflammable Punjab police

Due to the police's slacking attitude, gang rape victim Sonia set herself ablaze in front of the police station.

Syeda Saima Shabbir October 16, 2015
Recently, I came across an incident that saddened me deeply. It was about a woman, Sonia Bibi, who was raped by three men and set herself ablaze in front of a police station in the Saddar area of Muzaffargarh due to the slacking attitude of the police. The incident is not the first of its kind. Another man, namely Shahbaz, died of self-immolation, after the police failed to take action on his application against a tax official.

Similar tragedies have taken place over the course of time. Last year, a woman from Dera Gazi Khan set herself on fire as a protest against the attitude of the Punjab police for setting her rapists free. Our bleak history is replete with such incidents where the victims have sacrificed themselves due to the negligent, brutal and unjustifiable behaviour of the Punjab police.

The scars of the Kasur scandal are still afresh. It is a shame that our own children, the future of this country, have been subjected to the most heinous of crimes – sexual abuse. Their families were harassed and deterred from taking any legal action. And the police stood by – worthlessly. As usual, the police have remained a tool in the hands of corrupt politicians and the rich. The victimised children and their families were the sufferers and remained so even after the revelation of this scandal. Some children committed suicide and the others have been left traumatised as no psychological aid has been provided to them.

Our so-called legislators did not come out of their ivory towers to rescue these poor and sexually traumatised children and their families. Instead, they made attempts to cover up this scandal; after all, the citizens of Pakistan are the properties of the mighty and powerful. They can be used as commodities at the whims and wishes of those who are at the helm of the affairs. Of course, no new laws were enacted to set out stringent penalties for the violators.

Dear readers, I personally believe that no one is willing to raise their voice against the police behaviour except the media. Let me share an interesting incident with you that made me stronger and resolute to write on police reformation in Pakistan.

After completing my LLM, I got admission in the International Islamic University Islamabad to pursue my PhD. I held the desire to write a comprehensive thesis on ‘Reforming the police system of Pakistan, highlighting the flaws and lacunae in the out-dated laws encompassing the police system.

Once I completed my course work, I submitted my PhD proposal to the concerned authorities. But to my utter dismay, when I was called to defend my topic, I was grilled by the panel, as if I had sinned by taking up such a topic. I was asked to change my topic and when I remained firm on my stance, my proposal was rejected altogether. While leaving the room, I told the panellists that the police system of Pakistan does need to change and I will write a thesis on this, whenever I get an admission in a foreign university.

This incident made one thing clear – it was not the rejection of a topic, but the suppression of a voice against the obsolete system of the police in Pakistan.

During the last couple of years, the crime rate in Pakistan, specifically Punjab, has increased to a great extent. This can be seen in various categories, such as rape, sexual abuse and murder.

The law enforcement in Pakistan is the joint responsibility of federal and provincial police services. However, it’s interesting to note that different laws are applicable at provincial and federal level. Two different enactments, the Police Act 1861 and the Police Order 2002 are in vogue in Pakistan, but the same old Police Rules of 1934 are applicable to the whole system of police.

The basic structure of the police is still based on the British colonial model. Back then, the police was used as an instrument for glorifying the ruling class.

Not much has changed today.

The maintenance of the rule of law in the country is not only the duty of the police. It’s the primary responsibility of the state to enforce law through various state institutions, including the police. The legislature in Pakistan seems oblivious on performing its primary responsibility of enacting relevant laws to the criminal justice system.

The whole system of the police in Pakistan needs to be revamped and reformed based on new laws in line with the international standards. It is high time that the state fulfils its primary responsibility of protecting the lives of the people of Pakistan as per constitutional mandate.

This is possible only through amending, altering and replacing old laws with cogent and stringent legal rules and principles. Only then can the police of Pakistan be emancipated from the shackles of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency. Otherwise, the growing trends of crimes with impunity, will lead the society towards anarchy and deterioration.
Syeda Saima Shabbir A researcher at the Supreme Court who is also a former civil judge. She is currently doing her PhD in Law from International Islamic University Islamabad. She tweets as @saimasyeda (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Gulwant Singh Bedi | 8 years ago | Reply Same police that committed the Model Town Massacre, in Lahore. Under orders from Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif. Same police that is the personal security force of the Sharif Brothers. Same police that stood and watched while a pregnant woman was stoned to death in front of Lahore High Court. Same police that took 5 hours to arrive, while a mob beat, torture, hang and burn a Christian couple. [police sub station was less than a mile away!] Same police that beat up peacefully protesting nurses, in front of Shahbaz Sharif's office, in Lahore. [one of the nurses had a miscarriage, due to the severe beating she received] Same police....this could go on, there is a long long black history attached to Punjab Police. The Corruption Chapter, alone, could be at least 20 pages long.
talha usmani | 8 years ago | Reply This is the worst dilemma every Pakistani is forced to under take. But the whole nation needs to understand that in order to progress the police system needs to be completely revamped otherwise rampant corruption will never get cornered. In states where Police & Bureau of Prosecution is corruption free and upright people prosper. As there is always an imminent danger lurking in the minds of criminals and corrupt politicians.
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