December 22 will mark the 100th day of justice denied. A five-year-old girl was raped and left outside Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Lahore on September 13. To date, police have neither identified nor arrested the culprits.
“This is a complete failure of police and authorities. The incident took place in the city of Lahore, not in an area where the government has no writ,” said Sajjad Cheema, a child rights’ activist and the regional manager of Society for the Protection of the Right of the Child (SPARC).
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had formed a committee to probe the incident. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had also taken a suo motu notice. But what happened after that?
“Nothing. Nobody has a clue about who committed this heinous crime, which means we have done nothing to stop this from happening again,” he expressed his concern.
Many residents of Mugulpura, the locality where the girl lived, have lost sympathy towards the aggrieved family. This, many believe, is due to the “notice of the chief minister”. “The chief minister took notice of the incident which instead of helping the family, created problems for them,” explained Muhammad Imran, a Mugulpura resident.
The chief minister used to ask for a progress report every day in the initial days and the police, to justify their performance, held many residents of the area, he claimed. This created panic among the residents as police picked up many people who had nothing to do with the case.
“Residents of Mugulpura also held several demonstrations against the police for picking up residents and later releasing them after accepting bribes,” another resident of the area told The Express Tribune.
It was not only the residents who suffered, but the family did as well. The father of the five-year-old victim changed all his mobile phone numbers after the incident. “We are still in pain as nothing has been done. Many of our neighbours have also turned hostile towards us because of the police attitude. We were assured that justice would be provided but now we don’t know [if that will happen],” a close relative lamented while talking with The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, the City Superintendent of Police (SP), Imtiaz Sarwar, who was SP Investigation at the time of the incident, refused to comment on the case. “I don’t remember any details now and cannot comment.”
SSP (Investigation) Abdul Rab Chaudhry admitted the police had so far failed to arrest the culprits. “We are working on the case and will arrest the culprits soon,” he maintained. When asked to give any timeframe of arrest he uttered the same statement heard repeatedly: “We will do it very soon and share the good news with the media”.
No child protection laws
SPARC’s Sajjad Cheema claimed the police have not taken the case seriously and merely completed official correspondence. “The FIR of this case was registered under Sections 363 and 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code. If an adult is raped, the case is registered under the same sections. There are no child protection laws in this country,” he argued.
Section 363 deals with punishment for kidnapping and has a seven-year punishment, while Section 376 pertains to punishment of rape that is liable to be punished with life imprisonment or death. “The chief minister’s notices are just eyewash. Until we adopt legislative procedures to discourage such incidents, we cannot hold the police answerable.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2013.