“Prime suspect” arrested in Pakistan highway rape case | Pakistan

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Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani police arrested a second suspect in the gang rape of a woman on a major highway last month, a case that sparked national outrage and saw the government come up with proposals to publicly hang rapists.« [The suspect] was arrested, ”government spokesman Shahbaz Gill said on Monday evening. ” [H]We will be punished according to the law. ”

The arrest was also confirmed by Inam Ghani, the provincial police chief of Punjab province, which is home to around half of Pakistan’s 207 million people and the scene of the crime on a highway outside the provincial capital, Lahore, September 9.

The arrest follows a week-long manhunt across the province, with police detaining more than a dozen suspects. They ultimately limited their search to the two people who are currently in detention.

The other suspect in the case was arrested by police on September 14 and has already confessed to the crime, according to Punjab chief minister Usman Buzdar, as well as the involvement of the suspect who was arrested on Monday.

Violence against women is endemic in Pakistan, which ranks 130th in the United Nations ranking on gender equality and 143rd on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.

Data on violence against women is not collected consistently nationally, but police data released earlier this year showed there were at least 3,881 rape cases and 1,359 cases of child sexual abuse in Punjab province alone in 2019.

In 2018, a survey of global experts on gender security ranked Pakistan as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women.

“People are angry that they keep seeing these crimes, and the perpetrators keep getting away with it,” said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia activist for rights group Amnesty International.

“Conviction rates are abysmal, reporting mechanisms are neither gender sensitive nor straightforward, and impunity reigns supreme.”

Pakistani man accused of being the prime suspect in gang rape of mother on highway, case that sparked protests across the country [Arif Ali/AFP]

‘Exemplary penalties’

The rape of the woman on a highway on September 9, which occurred in the wee hours of the morning after her car broke down on the side of the road, sparked protests across the country.

Human rights activists have called for greater protection for women and structural changes in the way rape cases are handled.

Umar Sheikh, the police chief of Lahore, the largest city and capital of Punjab, appeared to blame the victim after the rape.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took note of the attack, telling a private television station that he had ordered the Justice Ministry to come up with proposals to amend existing laws to prescribe tougher sentences.

“They [serial rapists] should receive exemplary punishments. In my opinion they should be hanged on the chowk [intersection]Khan said. He also called for the chemical castration of repeat offenders.

Lawmakers told Al Jazeera the proposals were being debated, with Pakistan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party trying to reach consensus with opposition parties.

“The idea of ​​public hanging, this debate is going on and there are different opinions about it,” said Faisal Javed, senator and senior PTI leader. “The spirit is that we have to make an example of it. There could also be chemical castration. ”

Javed said the government’s proposed law would include provisions to protect those who come forward to report rape cases, increase the country’s low conviction rate in such cases, and create a database of offenders. sexual.

Rights groups, however, called for caution about the proposed reforms, saying some of the proposed sanctions would violate Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights treaties.

“The proposed sanctions are not justice,” Amnesty’s Mohydin said. “They are guided by revenge and not by responsibility. Public hangings and chemical castrations are quick fixes that serve no other purpose than to distract people and politicians from the hard work that needs to be done to prevent and protect against rape.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.



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