LAHORE: It is said violence begets violence and crime gives rise to more crime. So it seems for incidents of child sexual abuse.
A few days ago, Kasur police finally nabbed the suspected child rapist responsible for the sexual assault and murder of four children in the district’s Chunian tehsil. An investigation into the suspect’s past has highlighted how childhood victims of sexual abuse can sometimes turn into predators themselves.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Kasur district’s top police officer said the suspect Sohail Shehzada had revealed during interrogation that he was molested as a minor.
“Sohail told us he was sexually abused by his ‘ustad’ at the naan shop he was an apprentice at,” said Kasur Regional Police Officer (RPO) Sohail Tajik. “This is what he admitted developed in him a fascination with abusing other children.”
He added that his department has arrested Sohail’s former employer and are currently investigating him.
School child protection committees
A history of violence
RPO Tajik described the suspect as a ‘habitual criminal’ who had a history of abusing children. “Sohail was caught once before, in 2011, for raping a minor,” the senior police official said. “He was sentenced to five years in prison, but got off after serving just one-and-a-half years.”
“Despite this, when we arrested him, he was so confident in himself that he betrayed no fear of justice,” he told The Express Tribune. “He continued to insist on his innocence until we presented to him the forensic evidence we had collected that incriminated him. It was the overwhelming evidence that made him confess.”
Providing details on the suspect, the RPO said Sohail was illiterate and operated a rickshaw which earned him Rs300 a day. “He used to live in Pattoki with his family before all of them resettled to a house in the Rana Town area of Chunian. He has been driving a rickshaw ever since he stopped working at the naan shop.”
According to Tajik, Sohail had a preference for targeting children between the ages of 10 and 12. “He abducted his four victims – M Imran, Faizan, Ali Husnain and Salman – between June and September this year. All of them were residents of the same area he lived in,” he told The Express Tribune.
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Sohail often lured his victims by offering them rides on his rickshaw, the RPO said. “He would drive them to a hill on the outskirts of Chunian under the pretext of fetching wood and then sexually assault them there.”
Other times, he would pay children to fetch wood from the same hill and then corner them there, the police official added. “When his victims cried and made noise, he would strangle them to death and then dump them in a ditch.”
“The suspect was so confident that he would get away with his crimes that he continued his day to day life as if nothing had occurred,” said Tajik.
No escape from the law
While law enforcers in Pakistan usually suffer a bad rap when it comes to investigating criminal cases, Kasur police displayed uncharacteristic efficiency in the operation to bring Sohail to book.
“We cast our dragnet on a five-kilometre radius from the epicentre of the crimes in Rana Town,” said Tajik. “We used census lists and compiled data on every man, aged between 14 and 40 years to trace the suspect.”
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“From the list of roughly 60,000, we investigated 26,251 individuals from 4,684 households in Rana Town and Ghousia Colony. DNA samples were obtained from 1,734 people and 1,649 were analysed. Only Sohail’s DNA returned a match,” the police official said. He added that police also investigated data from 8,307 cellphones confiscated from 3,117 suspects.
“The entire investigation has helped us compile a list of individuals with a history of sexual crime. We hope this will be beneficial for future investigations,” Tajik said.
After singling out Sohail as their prime suspect, the second challenge police encountered was in arresting him. “The suspect would often relocate after committing his crimes, making it very hard to get hold of him,” the RPO explained. “After his last rape and murder, Sohail left his rickshaw and began working at a naan shop near the Lahore High Court.”
“Still, we had the tracks of Sohail’s Qingqi rickshaw from the scene of his crimes. We compared them to the tracks of 904 other rickshaws to trace him. The shoeprints we collected also proved valuable as the suspect was wearing the same shoes when he was arrested as the ones he had on while committing his heinous crimes,” said Tajik. He added that a constable named Hakim played a crucial rule in the breakthrough that resulted in Sohail’s arrest.