Pakistan rape protest highway
People carry signs against a gang rape that occurred along a highway and to condemn violence against women and girls, during a protest in Karachi, Pakistan September 12, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Punjab and Punjab government to explain the criteria for announcing rewards for the arrest of suspects.

While hearing a petition related to land grabbing by police, Chief Justice (CJ) of the LHC Muhammad Qasim Khan expressed displeasure over announcement of Rs 5 million (Dh112,514) reward money for policemen and officers who had participated in the operation to arrest the prime suspect Abid Malhi in the September 9 motorway gang rape incident.

Isn’t it the duty of police to arrest culprits?

The judge asked IGP Ghani if it was not the duty of the police to arrest the accused. “Will police officials now perform their duty for the sake of prize money, the court asked, adding that minor children were being raped and murdered while culprits were moving freely in the country.

Stating that the police were unable to arrest Abid for [34] days, the judge pointed out the force’s incompetence and made it clear he would not spare anybody involved in negligence. He added that it [announcing rewards] was a new culture that the Punjab government was introducing.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on Tuesday had announced prize money of Rs 5 million after key accused Abid Malhi was arrested on Monday (Oct 12). “It is strange that the police is being rewarded for arresting a culprit,” the chief justice told the provincial police chief. “If this continues, policemen will first wait for a reward announcement and then nab the suspects,” the judge remarked.

Accused’s father contradicts police claims

Meanwhile, a video clip by Abid’s father Akbar Ali after the arrest of his son has generated a new controversy regarding police’s claims of his arrest. In a video message, Akbar Ali claimed his son had surrendered before the police to put an end to the police’s harassment of the family’s women.

“My son called and told me that he was surrendering himself to the police. I advised him to come to meet me at 6:30pm. When he came to me in Manga Mandi [some 33 kilometres from Lahore] where I live, I told the police that Abid has come and I am surrendering him.” Akbar said his daughters were already in police custody and he expected they would be released after Abid’s arrest.

IGP denies claims of suspect’s father

After the court hearing when the media persons asked the IGP Inam Ghani about claims of Malhi’s father, he remained silent. However, later he denied the claims and said nine teams of Punjab police were constantly working to arrest the prime suspect. We had released his wife and some other members of the family as bait to catch him, he said.