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Sunday Sep 13 2020

Pakistan's most-wanted

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

Police have launched a manhunt to apprehend the suspects involved in the motorway rape incident which has angered the entire nation prompting countrywide protests and calls for their public hanging.

The Punjab government on Saturday, in a major breakthrough in the case, identified Abid Ali and Waqarul Hasan as the two suspects and announced a reward of Rs2.5 million each for the information leading to their arrest.

While addressing a press conference, flanked by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Law Minister Raja Basharat and Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan, Inspector General of Punjab Police (IGP) Inam Ghani said that they have dig out the complete criminal record of the suspects.

According to the CM Usman Buzdar, seven cases, including two gang-rape cases, were registered against Abid, while two robbery cases were registered against Waqar who was released 14 days ago on bail.

How did the police track them down?

A special investigation team was constituted in which officers from the Counter-Terrorism Department, Special Branch, and an officer from the unit of violence against women were made part of the team.

IGP Ghani, while briefing the media, said that the entire area where the incident took place was canvassed.

"Geofencing 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, adding that the scientific investigation was a time-consuming process.

The DNA samples collected from the crime scene matched with the samples in government record providing the much-needed breakthrough to the investigators.

The prime suspect: Abid Ali

The police chief said that "through scientific evidence", the prime suspect has been identified as Abid Ali, a resident of Fort Abbas in district Bahawalnagar.

"Our teams worked hard to gain information about Abid and were able to get information about his family, his prior records, his CNIC, and cell numbers,” Ghani added.

The key suspect, Abid Ali, earlier lived in Chak 260/HR, tehsil Fort Abbas, district Bahawalnagar, where he had been wanted by the police in different heinous crimes.

Read more: Motorway rape incident: Authorities zero in on suspect after DNA test returns positive

The cases included a gang-rape in which he and four other culprits had raped a mother and her daughter seven years ago and later reconciliation was reached between the victims and the culprits because the victim's family was pressurised.

The IGP said that after the police went through the records, they had gathered they got to know that the suspect had four cell-phone 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 — which was not registered in his name — and it proved our suspicions right. Through the 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."

They fled when the police carried out raids at their hideouts, he said.

"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 hold of them," he added.

He said that owing to information leak in the public domain, the suspects "were aware that the police were closing in on them".

Speaking of Abid, IGP Ghani said the police raided his house — located in fields — in civilian clothes and a car, but he saw a vehicle stopping near his house and fled from the scene along with his wife.

"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.

Police turned a blind eye

Abid Ali is wanted in a number of cases filed at different police stations in Bahawalnagar district but the police never took any action the culprit, The News reported.

The district police spokesperson said that he had left the area seven years ago after a reconciliation was reached with the victims in the gang-rape cases and no other record against the culprit existed.

Read more: Netizens burst in anger over horrific Motorway incident, call for prompt action

The report stated that he had been involved in almost seven heinous crimes including robberies, which the district police seem to be hiding from the media.

The second suspect: Waqarul Hassan

According to the Punjab police chief, the second suspect, Waqarul Hassan, is a resident of Qila Sattar in Sheikhupura.

The IGP told the media that two robbery cases were lodged against Hassan and he was released on bail only 14 days ago.

Raids were being conducted to arrest him as well, said Ghani.

The IGP requested people to help the police catch the suspects and call on 15 to inform the police about their whereabouts.

A truck approached the victim before 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 jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, a Special Investigation Team of the Punjab police, has been trying to trace a truck from which a person approached the Gujjarpura rape victim from the opposite side and tried to ask the reason for parking the car on the roadside.

It is learnt that the truck coming from Gujranwala stopped on seeing the parked car on the opposite side. A person from the truck approached the car and tried to ask the woman about the issue she was facing. The woman didn’t open the windows but told him about the petrol issue with signs. The said man opened the bonnet of the car and then left. After a few minutes of his departure, two suspects reached there and committed the heinous offence.