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Saturday Sep 12 2020
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Punjab govt launches manhunt after suspects of Lahore motorway gang rape case identified

Abid Ali (L) and Waqarul Hassan. — Photos courtesy Government of Punjab

The Punjab government has launched a manhunt to apprehend the suspects in the Lahore motorway gang rape case after having identified both of them "using scientific evidence".

Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar announced a reward of Rs2.5 million for each of the suspects if information leading to their arrest is shared. He said that the identity of those bringing forward any information will be kept confidential.

"We worked day and night and launched a probe using scientific techniques. I personally monitored the progress and directed the completion of the probe expediently," Buzdar said.

"I want to inform you all we have succeeded in tracking down the real culprits behind this heart wrenching incident in less than 72 hours. I assure you that the savages that have committed this crime will be brought to justice very soon," the chief minister vowed.

Buzdar said that the culprits will be given exemplary punishment for the heinous crime.

Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani said that the police has the entire record of both suspects — identified as Abid Ali and Waqarul Hasan — in the case.

According to the chief minister, seven cases — including two gang-rape cases — were registered against Abid, while two robbery cases were filed against Waqar who was released 14 days earlier on bail.

"A special investigation was constituted in which officers from the CTD, Special Branch, and an officer from the unit of violence against women were a part of the team," Ghani said.

He said that the entire area where the incident took place was canvassed.

"Geo-fencing of the entire area was carried out, data was taken from the Election Commission of Pakistan, fingerprints were taken from the site, and DNA tests were conducted," he said.

Ghani said that "scientific investigation" is a time-consuming process.

"Chief Minister Buzdar has cooperated with us throughout and was in contract with us even at night — till 1:30, 2am," he said.

(From L-R) Inspector General of Police Punjab Inam Ghani, Punjab law minister Raja Basharat (and Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar address a press conference in Lahore to share progress of the motorway gang rape case, on September 12, 2020. — Geo News

The police chief said that ultimately, yesterday night, "through scientific evidence", the prime suspect was identified as Abid Ali.

"Abid is a resident of Bahawalnagar, Fort Abbas," he said.

"Our teams worked hard to gain information about Abid and were able to get information on his family, his prior records, his CNIC, and number."

IGP Ghani said that after the police went through the records they had gathered they got to know that the suspect had four sims registered in his name that he used on several occasions. All of the sims, however, were currently non-functional.

"Ultimately, we tracked down another number — that was not registered to his name — and it proved our suspicions right. Through this number, we were able to reach his partner as well," he said.

The Punjab police chief added: "We are 95% sure that [the person we have tracked down] is his partner as his phone signals were traced to the location of the crime [at the time of the incident]."

He said that today, at 12pm, "we were ready to raid their residences and apprehend them", but upon reaching the locations found that they are not there.

"The police were then able to track down the suspects' residences to Qila Sattar Shah, District Sheikhupura," IGP Ghani said.

"Unfortunately, despite raiding both the suspects' residences, we were not able to get a hold of them," he added.

He said that owing to information out in the public domain, the suspects "were aware that the cops were closing in".

Speaking of Abid, IGP Ghani said the police raided his house — located inside a farm — in civilian clothes and a car, but he saw a vehicle stop near his house. So, Ali and his wife fled the scene.

"However, we were able to find his daughter inside the house," he said, adding that the police recovered his marriage certificate and other records, which helped confirm things.

"The second suspect, Waqarul Hassan, a resident of Ali Town, had also fled," the Punjab police chief said.

The IGP requested people to help the police in catching the suspects and call on 15 to inform the police of their whereabouts.

Responding to question, he clarified that the suspects were "not yet caught".

Ghani said that timely assistance was not provided to the woman as  motorway police was not present in the area.

Read more: 'Motorway Police is not deployed where Gujjarpura rape incident took place'

"At the directives of the chief minister, Punjab police have taken over the 91km route, and the officers are patrolling the area 24/7," he said.

The chief minister said that to avoid any jurisdictional issues in the future, the government has decided to develop a mechanism to connect all calls to 15 so that the police's response time can be reduced.

Lahore CCPO served show-cause notice

Buzdar, responding to a question, said that the Capital City Police Officer Lahore Umar Sheikh had made an "irrelevant" statement and he has been served a show-cause notice.

"The IG has written a show-cause notice to him and summoned an answer in seven days [...] After he responds, legal action will be taken," Buzdar said.

CCPO Sheikh had blamed the victim the incident for going through the route that she chose and said that she should have checked her petrol tank before getting on the said route.

Talking to Dunya News on the matter, Sheikh said that the woman had left Lahore's Defence area at 12:30am for Gujranwala.

"I am surprised that a mother of three, a lone driver [...] after leaving Defence should have taken the straight route from GT Road — a generally well-populated area," he said.

The CCPO said that the victim should have "at least" checked her car's fuel tank before getting on the route as there is no petrol pump along it.

The incident

On Wednesday night, it was reported that two robbers had allegedly gang-raped a mother of two on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in an area falling within Gujjarpura police's jurisdiction.

The woman, along with her two children, was driving to Gujranwala  when she was forced to stop at the Gujjarpura section of the motorway after running out of fuel, at around 1:30am.

She immediately called a relative and sent him her location. He asked her to also dial the Motorway Police helpline 130 from which she reportedly received no response.

In the meantime, two robbers reportedly approached the car, broke the window, and took the woman and her children to nearby bushes where they allegedly raped her in front of the children.

They also allegedly snatched her purse carrying Rs100,000 in cash, one bracelet, car registration papers, and three ATM cards.