Chief Minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Usman Buzdar Saturday evening announced that the government has been able to reach the “real culprits” in the motorway gang-rape case that caused countrywide outrage and exposed the lack of security on Lahore-Sialkot Motorway, a key route that links various parts of north-eastern parts of the province.
He was addressing a press conference alongside Punjab Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani, Law Minister Raja Basharat and Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan in the provincial capital, Lahore.
Two ‘robbers’ allegedly raped a woman at gunpoint in Gujjarpura area on the outskirts of Lahore on Wednesday while she was waiting for help on the motorway after her car developed a fault, according to English newspaper, Daily Dawn.
“I want to inform you all, [we] have been able to reach the real culprits in this tragic incident in less than 72 hours,” Buzdar told the news conference.
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He said the investigation of the case was being carried out in a scientific manner and he was personally monitoring the probe.
Buzdar said the “beasts” involved in the incident will soon be arrested and given appropriate punishment as per the law. He added that he has directed the Punjab Police and other departments to take effective measures to prevent such incidents in the future.
The chief minister said he had personally talked to the victim and assured her of justice. He announced a reward of Rs2.5 million each for the persons that helped lead to the identification of the suspects.
IGP Ghani said it was confirmed through scientific evidence last night that the primary suspect in the case is 27-year-old Abid Ali, a resident of Fort Abbas in Bahawalnagar district.
He said police initially only had the information that the DNA samples collected from the crime scene matched with the samples in government records of a minor suspect collected in some other case.
“We dug through the records to obtain details of the suspect and got hold of his identity card and [cellphone] number. We traced him to his address and obtained all the details.
“After checking the record we had previously and the phones he had, we found that he had four sims registered in his name but he also had another sim not in his name. Geo-fencing confirmed his location and we were also able to reach his accomplice through this.”
IGP Ghani said police were “95-96 per cent” sure of the identity of Ali’s accomplice, whose presence at the crime scene was shown by telephone data. They were also able to obtain his address and CNIC number.
“We were ready by today afternoon to conduct raids at their houses and arrest them but we found they were not in Lahore but in a village, Qila Sattar Shah, in district Sheikhupura,” he said.
“Unfortunately, because this information had gone into the public domain, the suspects had definitely received the tip-off that police was near them … When we went to [Ali’s] house, located between agricultural fields, in civilian cars and clothes, he along with his wife fled into the fields.”
Police were able to locate Ali’s house and also found his daughter there, Ghani told the presser, adding that his nikahnama and other documents were also recovered.
He said Ali’s accomplice, identified as Waqarul Hassan Shah, 35, had also fled when police raided his house.
“We have the entire record of both the suspects [and] police, CTD, CIA and Special Branch teams are after them,” the IGP said, adding that police were also using scientific aid available with intelligence agencies.
“I hope we will be able to reach them (suspects) very soon,” he said, urging the public to help in the manhunt by informing police about their presence on 15 helpline.
Buzdar said Abid Ali had seven criminal cases registered against him between 2013 and 2017, including two of gang-rapes, while two robbery cases were lodged against Hassan. He added that Hassan was released on bail only 14 days ago.
Answering a question, IGP Ghani acknowledged that the victim could not get “timely assistance” because the Motorway Police did not have its presence on the route where the incident occurred.
He said the woman had called the Motorway Police helpline but she was redirected to FWO’s number. “Ultimately, Dolphin Force reached the scene after a passerby ringed 15,” he added.
Chief Minister Buzdar in reply to another question termed as “irrelevant” the statement given after the incident by Lahore CCPO Umer Sheikh, in which he shifted blame on the gang-rape victim.
“It was an irrelevant thing that he said. The IG has issued him a show-cause notice in this regard and sought his reply within seven days, saying that such irrelevant statements should not be made, and on the basis of his reply legal action will be taken,” he said.