Woman harassed by mob wasn't coerced into apologising: ASP Shehrbano

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ASP Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi (left) and an image of the design that sparked the incident. — X/@OfficialDPRPP/@TahirAshrafi
ASP Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi (left) and an image of the design that sparked the incident. — X/@OfficialDPRPP/@TahirAshrafi

  • "She said what she said on her behalf," cop says.
  • ASP says woman was shifted to safe location.
  • Police to look into action against 'identified' harassers.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi — who is the sub-divisional police officer at Gulbarg Lahore — Monday said the woman harassed by an enraged mob in the city's Ichhra Bazaar was not coerced into apologising for wearing the shirt with Arabic script.

The cop added that the woman, who was later seen seated between two bearded clerics in one of the videos, was shifted to a safe location and her consent was taken before meeting those men.

"We did not coerce the woman into saying anything whatsoever. The consent was taken, she said what she said on her behalf," ASP Shehrbano said when speaking during Geo News programme 'Geo Pakistan' on Tuesday.

The ASP's remark came in response to a question about why the woman was asked to apologise when she was not at fault in the situation, particularly after it was pointed out by social media users.

On February 25, the woman was saved by the law enforcers just a few minutes after being encircled and harassed by an angry crowd that wanted to punish her for allegedly wearing a dress that they thought was blasphemous as it adorned "holy verses" as the print.

Upon receiving information about the incident, the Punjab Police — led by ASP Shehrbano, arrived at the scene to take the woman into their custody, saving her from the charged crowd.

The cop said she was not on social media and had no idea that the video had gone viral because this was not the first time she was dealing with a case of such a nature.

"This happens every day almost. A similar situation unfolded in Firdous Market two weeks ago outside a mosque. Earlier, three other incidents had taken place in Ichhra as well. For us, it was like we had to do it and put our lives at risk," she said.

The police intervene according to three different aspects — no law and order situation transpires, there is no financial loss and nobody's life gets endangered, the ASP said.

The police official was asked if any action would be taken against the people who harassed the woman, she said that the police have identified those individuals and they are also familiar with this development.

"They have been trying to reach out to us. Once the matter cools down, we'll look into it."

Meanwhile, according to ASP Shehrbano, when the mob demanded meeting the woman — who was shifted to a safer location — then the religious scholars nominated by the mob to resolve the issue were allowed to meet her only after her consent was taken first.

"We asked the consent of the woman first whether she was okay meeting them because she was very scared. She said she is ok," the ASP revealed, adding that the woman was seated in the SHO's office.

When asked to share her sentiments about the incident, the ASP said that the police don't get the time to process their feelings when an event is unfolding.

She added that in such a situation, the police are focused on saving a life, ensuring that no law and order situation transpires and ensuring that the society, nation and country are not stained with an unerasable mark.

"These are the only three concerns we have when we are going to such a situation," the police officer said.

The composure, she added, becomes a part and parcel of your nature because an officer must step back and look at the situation from a third person's perspective.

Responding to a question on how she arrived at the scene and whether there were already police personnel in the area before she was called in, ASP Shehrbano said: "Basically, there is a protocol that one has to follow. If a 15 call comes through, then the relevant SHO has to reach the point. if a situation is related to a religious offence, political mob or roadblock, then you ensure beefing up the security and call vehicles of the relevant police stations."

The cop added that there were two SHOs present at the scene in this situation including SHO Shadman and Ichhra, while the supervisory police officer, ASP Model Town, and officer Shehrbano also arrived at the site.

ASP further mentioned that the sub-divisional level officers also arrive and being an ASP she is a sub-divisional officer, while the divisional in charge also arrives at the scene.

"When you are talking about a religious offence, political offence or a law and order situation, you have to ensure that everybody from the hierarchy arrives," she said, adding that the superintendent police was present, while Dolphin — the first response force — and SHOs were also at the site.

The police officer, detailing how she rescued the woman, said she stood on top of the chair to calm the crowd and told not to move when she brought the woman out of the shop where she was taking refuge.

ASP Shehrbano added that she made the woman sit in the police vehicle, while she stood at the back of it to stop the crowd from following them to the police station.

Senators slam mob for harassing woman

Meanwhile, sharing their sentiments on the Ichhra Bazaar incident at the Senate, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Rubina Khalid said that the woman was harassed. “She was made to apologise even she was not at fault.”

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leader Senator Faisal Sabzwari termed the incident “sad” and questioned the nation’s collective wisdom.

“Who gave the right to [seek] justice through [gathering] the crowd by falsely accusing someone?” he asked further questioning what image of the country is being portrayed with such action.

The senator wished legislation against the false accuser was also passed in the House.

“The harshest punishment should be meted out for making false accusations against someone in the name of religion and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”