Justice, generic
Photo for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Pixabay

Islamabad: The female complainant who last week backtracked from her earlier statement in a sexual harassment, torture and stripping case accusing Usman Mirza and his gang of torture and abuse has told a trial court she couldn’t recognise her tormentors and was not interested in pursuing it.

She also told the judge she was being pressured to change her statement and requested the court to grant her permanent exemption in the case.

The case had surfaced when a video of four persons holding a couple at gunpoint, forcing them to strip and then beating them had gone viral on social media last year in July.

Initially, an FIR was registered under various sections of Pakistan’s Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force against woman and stripping her of her clothes), 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).

Later, sections pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, extortion, and wrongful confinement were also added to the FIR.

In September, charges were framed against the primary accused, Usman Mirza, and co-accused Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Rehan, Umar Bilal Marwat, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen.

Dramatic turn

On January 11, 2022 the case took a dramatic twist when the female victim, in a surprising move, retracted her statement against the accused and informed the trial court that she did not wish to pursue the case.

Her statement invoked public outcry and a demand for justice for the victims who, people felt, had been put under pressure to back out. A day later, Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari announced that the state would pursue the Islamabad couple harassment case “irrespective of recent developments relating to victim’s testimony”.

When the hearing of the case resumed on Wednesday with Additional District and Sessions Judge Atta Rabbani in chair, the girl complained that she was being pressured repeatedly to pursue the case. “I have given the statement that I don’t know anyone,” she said.

At another point in the hearing, prosecutor Rana Hasan Abbas cross-examined the male victim and asked him to narrate the background of the incident.

‘Can’t recall events’

“I cannot recall the details of the incident and also don’t remember what shirt I was wearing that day,” the victim said in response to a query from the prosecutor.

At this, the public prosecutor requested the court to play the video of the incident in the courtroom. The judge granted the request.

Later, Sher Afzal, counsel for one of the suspects, Marwat, urged the court to replay the footage as he sought to cross-examine the male victim, saying he wanted to see the face of the man. The video was played again at his request.

Meanwhile, the girl told the judge that she was not in the video that was circulated on social media, and also rejected allegations she had sought PKR 10 million (Dh 208,878) from Marwat.

She said police had obtained her fingerprints and signatures on a blank paper multiple times. The counsel for Marwat asked whether she had signed the papers under duress. To this, she responded: “I don’t know.”

Her lawyer Arbab Alam Abbas requested the court to bar the defendant from repeating questions that had already been answered during previous hearings.

She said was engaged to the man — the other victim seen in the video — adding that they tied the knot after the video surfaced.

Following the conclusion of cross-examination of the plaintiffs, the hearing was adjourned till January 25.

In the next hearing, the defendants’ counsels will cross-examine an investigation officer of the case.