The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) to hear an appeal filed by the Punjab prosecutor general against the acquittal of men accused of gang-raping a 13-year-old girl in the Dhoke Matkial locality of Rawalpindi. The court adjourned the case for one month till the LHC’s final decision.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was informed by the Rawalpindi city police chief that as per the directions of the Supreme Court, the police had registered an FIR against the participants and organisers of the illegal jirga that was arranged to reach an out-of-court settlement on the matter.
Chief Justice Chaudhry had earlier taken a suo motu notice on media reports that the Rawalpindi police were delaying registration of an FIR in a rape case. Later, the apex court found that the police tampered the case record to alter the facts.
On Thursday, the court expressed displeasure that an illegal jirga pushing for an out-of-court settlement was held in connivance with the area police.
During the hearing, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja told the Rawalpindi CPO Azhar Hameed Khokhar that it was not the responsibility of the court to give orders for the registration of FIRs and in fact it was the duty of the police to consider the complaints of citizens.
The chief justice asked the police to take action against organisers of the illegal jirga in accordance with the law. All facts are now in the police’s notice, he said.
Meanwhile, co-petitioner in the case, rights activist Tahira Abdullah told the court she was being threatened for pursuing this case by the Dhoke Ratta Amral SHO and participants of the jirga. The court asked the police to ensure her protection and asked the SHO not to make any phone calls to Abdullah.
In his complaint, the girl’s father told the police that Advocate Raja Zaheer had threatened him of dire consequences if he did not agree to a settlement with the other party. “Under the pressure of Advocate Zaheer and his Raja clan, I entered into an agreement,” the Rawalpindi CPO quoted the victim’s father for the court.
The court asked the LHC to decide the matter on merit without being pressured by the Supreme Court’s hearings.
According to the report submitted by Abdullah to the court, the victim’s father was a guard at a private security firm, earning Rs6,000 per month until he lost his job in May, 2012. His wife, was a domestic worker in the neighbourhood, along with the victim and their other daughter. Of their seven children, one girl is married, two older sons are suffering from TB and hepatitis respectively, two other boys have polio, and the mother suffered a trauma-induced stroke last month, leaving her totally paralysed. Thus, the victim and one sister are currently responsible for the financial needs of a 10-member joint family. None of the children have been to school.
Aslam reported to the police that his daughter had been raped by three men, all of whom she recognised and named, as they lived in the same neighbourhood. Aslam found the police unresponsive, unhelpful and unwilling to register an FIR. Eventually, the victim was taken to DHQ Hospital for a medico-legal exam. However, the police refused to hand over the hospital receipt to the family delaying the report, says an excerpt from the report by Abdullah.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2012.