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Monday, July 15, 2024

Death penalty for rape cases and the rule of law

The State has to answer a stream of questions about rape as they echo in every nook and corner of Pakistan.

One culprit, just one culprit undergoing the death penalty, while the whole world watches him meet his well-earned destiny is all it is going to curb the ‘rape’ cancer”, “Zero tolerance for rapists”, “Stop victim blaming”—are the audible murmurs we heard getting louder across Pakistan, ever since we saw an innocent woman traveling on the Highway, late on Tuesday night, raped right in front of her kids mercilessly.

But the tragedy was not over. She had to survive to hear from a very responsible police officer that she, somehow, called for it, by (deliberately) not checking up on the fuel levels of her vehicle and by choosing an extremely inappropriate time to travel “alone” with her kids and that she should have chosen GT Road instead, because GT Road is surrounded by densely populated areas with rich traffic inflow. Another free “wisdom nugget” that the officer offered her was that she should not have been traveling alone, to begin with.

Read more: Public Hangings: Violation of Human Dignity

So, listening to this timely lecture on how the rape victim was more or less, responsible for “creating a situation” where her car ran out of fuel and the rapists were probably left with no other option but to break the driver’s seat window using stones and dragging her and her children out of the car and raping her ruthlessly, followed by them looting her cash, jewellery and ATM cards.

Sources revealed that the woman was a French national and she had brought her kids to Pakistan to show the culture and values around. Little did she know how the land of pure was going to be introduced to the little ones.

The CCPO Lahore, Umar Sheikh’s statement, was followed by a snide remark, “The woman might have thought that she was in France. She needed to know she wasn’t” which enraged every sensible and sensitive soul in Pakistan, as it not only lacked empathy for the victim but also offered this (weak, untimely and totally unnecessary) defence of the rapists, even if his intention was not so.

Why did the Highway Police have to wait for this nerve-wrecking incident to jolt them to place the security staff resource on Highway after six months of this Lahore-Sialkot Motorway being fully operational with no security arrangements in place

His insistence on forcing his opinion on all and complete reluctance to retract and replace it with a more empathetic message added fuel to fire, and eventually the real message got lost and a new politically-motivated debate took over print, electronic and digital media, where some of the incumbent government’s supporters began to justify the police officer’s statement full of suggestions on what the victim should and should not have done, claiming that it was his genuine concern for women.

The opposition parties, the hard-core feminists, civil society members, and a majority of the supporters of the PTI government viewed it to be a highly irresponsible and untimely message, signalling the crime to make sense as the victim’s precautionary measures were not in place.

This genuinely dangerous issue which needed to be viewed using an enviably cohesive national lens, fell prey to political angling, where the opposition’s sole focus turned to the “removal of CCPO, Lahore for his ill-chosen statement” rather than emphasising on the arrest of the culprits. The government missed his statement outside the off-stump, as they say in cricket, lending him the margin to handle the situation better next, without the CM Punjab, Usman Buzdar, sternly telling him off and warning him to work on how and when to say what to whom.

Read more: Motorway gang-rape: Is death penalty the solution to crimes against women?

All said and done, one tends to ponder that it is not really about the victim being well-prepared or ill-prepared to defend themselves, but about the habitual predators getting away with this heinous crime time and again, while the country debates on them being publicly executed or not.

From the seven-year old Zainab getting sexually assaulted and murdered to the mother of three getting brutally raped right in front of her children, one can say with absolute certainty that it is all about the sick mentality of the habitual rapists and inability of the weak system of the country to take them to task, make an excellent example out of them. The encouraging part is that this woman’s suspected culprits got caught red-handed while using her stolen ATM Card yesterday. The thorough investigation leading to DNA profiling is underway. While we hope to see the DNA profiling results connect the dots, the real question remains:

Will the culprits be punished this time around? Or will they be set free only to pounce upon their next victim? Also, why did the Highway Police have to wait for this nerve-wracking incident to jolt them to place the security staff resource on Highway after six months of this Lahore-Sialkot Motorway being fully operational with no security arrangements in place?

Read more: Op-ed: Punjab Police deserves commendation for solving motorway rape case

The State has to answer this stream of questions, as they echo in every nook and corner of Pakistan today. The sooner the State turns these “why’s” into “you’re in safe hands” and “valuable suggestions to the masses on when, where and how they should travel” into “we ensure your safety inside and outside your houses, irrespective of your class, creed, age gender, and ‘precautionary arrangements’”, the better. Pakistan Zindabad!

Maleeha Hashmey is a prominent Vlogger, Columnist and Corporate Trainer, who has previously worked with United Nations. She can be reached through her Twitter handle:@maleehahashmey or by her email: MaleehaHashmi3@gmail.com. This article originally appeared at The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.