An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore on Saturday awarded death sentence to prime accused and co-accused – Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali – in the motorway gang-rape case that sparked a countrywide outrage last year.
On September 9, 2020, prime accused Malhi and Shafqat alias Bagga raped a woman at gunpoint in Gujjarpura area while she was waiting for help on the motorway after her car ran out of fuel.
An FIR of the incident was lodged with the Gujjarpura police under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
ATC Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta announced the verdict at the Camp Jail, where the prison authorities produced both the accused for today’s verdict.
The convicts were awarded death sentences after the prosecution established its case against them.
The court also awarded life imprisonment to both convicts under the charges of abduction and 14-years imprisonment to each accused under the charges of robbery.
The horrific incident shook the collective conscience of the entire nation and triggered countrywide outrage and raised questions over the duplicitous nature of a society where sheer savagery lies lurking behind the veil of piousness and morality and nowhere seems to be safe anymore.
The appalling incident also set off a debate on mainstream and social media on behavioural tendencies and the alarming rise in the cases of sexual violence in the country as well as the inability of the law enforcement mechanism to provide security to citizens as even a drive on a motorway can prove to be perilous.
In September last year, the woman was travelling with her children when her car stalled in Gujjarpura as it ran out of fuel.
She called her one her relatives and sent him her location on the motorway. When the relative reached the location, he saw the woman panic-stricken with blood stains allover her clothes. The windowpanes of her vehicle were also broken. The victim told the police that she was waiting for her relative to pick her up and her children when two armed men attacked her.
One of them struck the car with clubs and the other held them hostage at gunpoint.
The attackers then took her and the children to a nearby forested area where they gang-raped the woman.
Later, they robbed her of valuables which included Rs100,000 cash, two gold jewellery pieces, a bracelet, car registration card and three ATM cards and left her stranded.
Later police arrested the suspects and submitted challan, declaring them guilty. Owing to security reasons the trial of the accused held at prison.
Court recorded and cross-examined statements of around 35 prosecution witnesses. The accused in their statement under 342 CrPC pleaded not guilty and contended to contest the charges.
In previous hearings, the defence raised many questions over the jail proceedings, attempting to establish that the accused were innocent and had been implicated in a ‘forged case’. However, the victim identified the prime accused, Abid Malhi, as one of the perpetrators of the crime while he was presented before the court.
In earlier proceedings, on pointing out through a request submitted by the prosecution for recording evidence of the minors if court deems them competent, the court dismissed the request of the prosecution after the trial court judge observed that children appeared before court were minors and not competent for the said purpose.
However, the court put some queries to the minors like “Which school do you go to and in which class do you read” and some other questions of similar nature, but the children responded that they didn’t know anything.
The judge in the written verdict said that it has been concluded that prosecution has proved the case against the accused, Abid Ali and Shafqat Ali alias Bagga.
“The offence of rape is heinous offence and when it is committed in the eye sight of children of the victim, heinousness further magnified and which is shocking for general public as well so such accused persons should be dealt with iron hand,” the judge wrote in a verdict.
The court said both accused took victim from the vehicle forcibly and brought her down in a jungle “which reflect common intention of both the accused so both the accused persons committed offence u/s 376(ii) PPC [Pakistan Penal Code] in furtherance of their common intention, thus both the accused namely, Abid Ali s/o Akbar Ali and Shafqat Ali @ Bagga s/o Allah Ditta are convicted and punished u/s 376(ii) PPC to Death”.
The judgement said the convicts be hanged by their necks until they are dead but added that the sentences should not be executed till its confirmation by the Lahore High Court.
Besides confiscating their properties, the court also awarded them life sentences over kidnapping and adducting charges.
The court also imposed Rs200,000 fine each and also awarded 14 years imprisonment to both accused under Section 392 of PPC for robbery.
The court awarded five years imprisonment to both accused under Section 440 of PPC for mischief, besides imposing Rs50,000 fine.
“It has been established on record that during instant occurrence victim received injuries which comes within the ambit of Jurh Ghayr Jaifah Damiyah, thus both the accused persons are convicted and punished u/s 337-F1 and they are directed to pay Daman Rs.50,000/- each to the victim,” read the judgement.
All the sentences shall run concurrently and benefit of Section 382-B CrPC shall be given to each convict, it added.
As per judgement, convicts can challenge their conviction within seven days in the Lahore High Court.
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