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Two young sisters were gang raped in custody; police officials threaten that if anyone complains they will rape every woman in the village

Pakistan on 17 October 2013
Location : Ghotki, Pakistan | Source : Asian Human Rights Commission. Image Source: Flickr User Kevin Deen www.betaart.com

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the gang rape of two young women in police custody over a period of three days by the in-charge of the police station and two head constables. This was supposedly to solve a four-year old case of abduction for ransom. A member of the Sindh provincial assembly, also a member from the ruling party, is trying to get the rapists released as they helped him to win the elections. The Station Head Officer (SHO), in charge of the police station, threatened journalists reporting on the case that after his release he will deal with them strictly. One junior police officer of the SHO filed a case against the perpetrators after pressure from government, civil society and the media but the FIR was meant to save the perpetrators from the rape case. The family members of the victims have left their houses and gone into hiding in another city because of continuous threats from the police and the provincial assembly member. The police are trying to negotiate with the victims and come to a settlement. The SHO is being treated like a VIP in the police lock up and this has been revealed by the electronic media.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Two young sisters, Najma (18) and Asma (20), daughters of the late Ali Hasan Rajput, were taken into custody in the late hours of October 8 by Sub Inspector Abdullah Awan, the SHO of Khambarha police station, district Ghotki, Sindh province. He was assisted by Head Constable Abdul Razzak and Constable Arbelo. At the time of the police raid the elder brother, Noor Hasan, was not at home and police said they were taking both the sisters as hostages for his surrender as he is wanted in a four-year old case of abduction for ransom.

On the first night of abduction, both sisters were raped in the police station and during the next two days they were raped in a private house. One sister was spared for one day as her monthly menses started. The father of the sisters is deceased and the brother was doing a job in Karachi, 500 kilometers from their home. The young women were taken care of by their uncle. During all the three days the uncle visited the police station and SHO. He was constantly advised that the police are conducting investigations so they would be released soon. The uncle was never allowed to meet his nieces. After three days their uncle went to an influential landlord, Mr. Liaquat, and requested his help to get the two victims released. As Mr. Liaquat spoke with the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Abdul Salam Sheikh, he pressured the SHO to release the victims. The women were released in the afternoon of October 11 following which they told their uncle that they had been gang raped both at the police station and in a private house. The brother of the victims hired a lawyer, Mr. Solangi, who filed a case of gang rape in custody before a Session’s Court and the media started providing coverage on the news. The Session Court judge ordered the SSP to conduct an inquiry into the charge of gang rape. However, the SSP immediately told the SHO to make some excuse to avoid the charges of rape in custody and also to stop the government hospital from giving a medical report supporting the allegation of rape.

Immediately SHO Awan filed a case against the sisters for abetting in a case of abduction for ransom. However the media, particularly the Geo TV, immediately reported the case and interviewed the victims. This was promplty picked up by other media houses. The civil society also came out in support of the victims and started agitating for the arrest of the rapists and the production of a medical report. The lawyer filed an application for medical checkups in the Session Court which was granted. The lady doctor confirmed the rape but the official report has yet not been released due to the influence of the high police officers of the district.

The police have arrested SHO Awan and Head Constable Abdul Razzak on October 13 whereas the third perpetrator, Constable Arbelo remains at large. One member of the Sindh provincial assembly, Jam Mehtab Dahar, has come out in support of the perpetrators and is using the government machinery to provide help to the SHO. It is said that the SHO assisted him in the general elections to get the seat of the MPA by stamping the ballot papers after the voting was stopped.

When the police officials were produced before court they were without handcuffs and the SHO was all the time using his two cell phones and enjoying some food. He told the journalists that he will be quickly released, that he knows how to deal with them and that they will face his real treatment. He was also angry with the reporter of Geo TV, Mr. Aslam Malik, and threatened him that he would not be spared. The daily Jang reported that he also announced that this time two girls were raped however, when he is released he will rape all the women of the village.

There is an old case of abduction for ransom which has been pending for four years and the police use this case for extorting money from different people, particularly from religious minority groups.

The Supreme Court has declared that those police officers who were involved in criminal charges cannot be restored to office. SHO Awan is among those police officials but he has a good relationship with the SSP. The other advantage for his appointment as SHO was that the Khambarha is the place where the smuggled oil and petrol from Iran is brought into Pakistan and distributed illegally to different parts of the country at competitive rates. The daily illegal earnings of the Khambarha police station is around Rs. 100,000 and it is distributed among the different tiers of high officers.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the following authorities calling upon them to conduct an impartial enquiry in the case of gang rape of the two sisters in police custody and ensure the registration of such rape case against the accused police officers of the Khambarha police station, district Ghotki. The VIP treatment of the arrested persons must be halted immediately. Please also urge them to withdraw the case of abetting in the abduction for ransom against the victims. Mr. Jam Mehtab Dhahar, member of the Sindh provincial assembly, must be prosecuted for interfering in the rape case conducted by the police. The police are trying to make the case less grievous so that the perpetrators get impunity through the old methods of prosecution. Please urge them to provide security to the victims and their family members and also prosecute the district police officer (DPO) Ghotki for taking too much time in the recovery of the young women.

The AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Violence against Women calling for her intervention into this matter.

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