In a bid to take revenge, three people raped a 10-year-old girl on the orders of a panchayat in Bahawalpur earlier this week. It is believed that the daughter of one family had earlier been raped by a person from the victim’s family and in response a jirga was called which decided in its wisdom to order the rape of the daughter of the family of the perpetrator.
The bigger issue is not jirgas. It is governance, or the lack of it. While we are able to admire the manner that the country’s most populous province has developed under the Khadim-e-Aala, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, there is a dark underbelly that most ignore.
We see consistent reporting of crimes against women in Punjab. Given the coverage, some insist that crime in Punjab has risen manifold. That is not true. The media has started to report it extensively that has put the glare on issues that the CM would rather not have us look at.
A year or so back, there was a case against three sons of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Mian Farooq and five others who allegedly gang raped a girl. But the victim eventually said that she was not interested in the prosecution of the accused. The girl said she is unwilling to give a blood sample for a DNA test and stated in the affidavit that there is no need to carry out DNA tests on the accused.
The MNA in question then went on to say that the victim had “concocted the rape incident” and accused her of blackmail. The police, instead of investigating the case further, immediately dropped it. In any other part of the world, the police would have taken over the case and not stopped investigation since it had already confirmed through tests conducted that the girl had been gang-raped. The DNA tests would have established who her rapists were. It would have led to the arrest of those already identified by the victim. Not so in Punjab.
Let us also remember the September 2013 incident (two years have passed) when some unidentified persons raped a five-year-old girl and threw her outside a teaching hospital.
A watchman who found the girl unconscious with blood stains on her clothes moved her to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. Doctors at the hospital examined her and confirmed that she had been raped repeatedly for more than an hour. Her tormentors were more than one.
The father of the victim called upon Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to “publicly hang the criminals on the very spot where they committed this inhuman act”.
In response, the chief minister took serious note of the incident and directed police to arrest the culprits. So far, the Punjab police made one arrest and that too turned out to be a false lead.
While many rape incidents have been highlighted by the media, most have not. The ones mentioned here are only a tip of the iceberg.
In October 2013, a 14-year old girl was found unconscious near Expo Center near Jauhar Town where she was apparently dumped by her molesters. Her rescuers took her to Jinnah Hospital’s emergency room where an initial examination confirmed she was raped. No arrests so far.
In March 2014, a 19 year old from Karachi was raped and dumped on the roadside by some unidentified persons. The rescue services were informed that a young girl was lying unconscious near Ghazi Road Lahore. In a statement to police, the girl alleged that she was lured by a woman named Rehana to Lahore and a man named Yousuf raped her for two days. Again, no arrests.
In July 2014, a three year old girl was gang raped in Green town area of Lahore. Unidentified persons raped the girl and fled after throwing her on the street. The girl was shifted to Jinnah Hospital. Again no arrests.
How long will this continue? All these cases, which are more than a year old, are being highlighted to make one understand that despite the passage of time, the police has done nothing. And because of this lack of interest, the number of rapes and other crimes in Punjab have started to steadily rise. If the CM’s obsession with the Orange Line ends, possibly then some justice can be given to those who have been waiting for it for years.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2016.