International Women’s Day came and went in the usual flurry of speeches and discussions but the woman who was raped in DHA last December still awaits justice even though the police know who her rapists are.
K, in her 20s, was raped by a group of young men who forcibly stopped her car while she was driving near Seaview. She went to hospital and underwent a medico-legal exam in which the rape was confirmed.
According to M, K’s friend who filed the FIR, the police have identified the perpetrators. They are reportedly the teenaged sons of a well-known executive employed in an influential privately run organisation. The family lives in DHA.
A dejected M told The Express Tribune last month, “The culprits are from an influential family so the police cannot arrest them. The police have investigated this case properly and they have all the evidence. They have identified the car and the culprits.”
But even though the men have been identified, the police have not arrested them. The government’s initial interest in the case has waned, and no human rights groups have come forward to campaign for K.
“The investigation is going on,” said DIG South Iqbal Mehmood, before cutting the conversation short and promising to call back. Calls to Mehmood went unanswered on Tuesday and on Wednesday he cited VVIP presence in the city as a reason for being too busy to talk.
What are K’s options?
What can a rape survivor do when the police, despite identifying the culprits, fails to bring them in for questioning? Human rights lawyer Javed Burki, who has represented several rape survivors, said, “If the police have not arrested anyone, the complainant should write an application to the inspector-general or the deputy inspector-general and ask them to direct the police to arrest the culprits,” Burki said. “They can also go to court over this.”
According to Aurat Foundation’s director Mahnaz Rahman, “We should all blame ourselves for not supporting them.” She says she feels helpless at the number of cases of rape, violence and poverty that she comes across every day. “It is a very sad situation. Something only happens in highly publicised cases. Look at the case of the nurse (who was allegedly raped and pushed out of a window at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre). Even the president intervened but nothing happened.”
Activist Tahira Abdullah told AFP this week, “Almost 85 per cent of Pakistani women are subject to domestic violence at least once in their lifetime and most repeatedly during their life. The police stations are on the payroll of the feudal and the tribal chieftains, if a woman is kidnapped and raped or gang-raped by a son of a feudal landlord and his friends, who is she going to go to?”
According to the Sindh Police website, 50 cases of gang-rape and 239 cases of rape were reported in the province last year. Fifty-one cases of rape and 29 cases of gang-rape were reported in Karachi alone.
A recent report by the United States Institute of Peace on the Pakistani police stated: “The police in Pakistan have a terrible reputation, and ordinary people often avoid approaching the police to report a crime or communicate grievances. There is a general perception that the institution of the police is corrupt, institutionally incompetent, and brutal.
Consequently, justice is elusive, insecurity is rampant, and ordinary citizens are the victims of this system. […] The police officers get the most blame because they are visible to everyone and are expected to do everything in Pakistan, from crisis management to resolving political and legal disputes, in addition to facing the wrath of people venting their frustrations over blunders committed by the country’s leadership, both political and military.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 12th, 2011.