For illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Pixabay

On September 9, two men raped a woman at gunpoint while she was waiting for help on a motorway after her car stopped working in Pakistan. As the incident came to light, it immediately started trending on Twitter, enraging netizens. Now, a day after the incident took place, police have arrested 12 suspects in the case, local news outlets reported.

The incident occurred on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in the Gujjarpura area, in the province of Punjab.

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A police official said that as the woman crossed the toll plaza on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway, her car stopped working due to a shortage of petrol.

Meanwhile, she got a call from a relative from Gujranwala, who asked her to call the police helpline for help while he made his way to her. When he reached the location, he found the woman terrified with her clothes stained with blood.

According to Pakistani media, the police official said two armed men found the woman alone, took her and her children to a nearby field at gunpoint and gang-raped her, adding that police had formed teams to trace the culprits.

"So far 12 suspects have been arrested and search is going on," an official was quoted as saying.

A statement released by the Punjab Police also confirmed the arrests and said that 20 teams of Lahore Police and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), headed by the deputy inspector general of police (investigation) had been constituted on the orders of Inspector General Inam Ghani to investigate the case. As per Pakistani news reports, it said that police were taking all necessary measures, adding that "no stone will be left unturned to provide immediate justice to the victim and her family’’, Pakistani news outlets reported.

The incident has caused outrage online. Netizens demanded justice for the victim and advocated for women’s safety in the country.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, @MaryamNSharif, tweeted: “The tragic rape incident on motorway is as traumatising and heart-rending for me as it is for the entire nation. Such incidents are indicative of a deeper malaise that warrant a national response so as to put an end to the curse that stems from a culture that encourages impunity.”

Twitter user @RijaAwais1 wrote: “When I was five years old we had an accident on the motorway, and I am still unable to get it out of my mind, I remember every single detail. Imagine the condition of the kids who had to see their mother suffer. Will they ever forget the trauma? Disgusted to the core #motorwayincident”

Comments made by Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO), Umar Sheikh, during a news broadcast about the incident have also caused an uproar online.

A clip of the interview, in which Sheikh questions why the woman, a “mother-of-three”, was out late at night on a “secluded” road, is going viral online.

Sheikh also suggested that the woman should have taken another way to her destination.

Netizens were outraged as the CCPO “blamed the victim” and asked him to step down from his position.

Tweep @MirPAK5 wrote: “This man needs to be removed now. How dare he blame the victim? #Motorway #motorwayincident.”

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Shireen Mazari, @ShireenMazari1, Pakistan’s current Federal Minister for Human Rights, tweeted about the issue: “For an officer to effectively blame a woman for being gang raped by saying she should have taken the GT {Grand Truck) Road or question as to why she went out in the night with her children is unacceptable and have taken up this issue. Nothing can ever rationalise the crime of rape. That's it.”