The Motorway rape incident and what we can do about it
By Ali Hassnain
Law itself may or not be deficient, but law is in letter. Humans implement it. According to our law it is up to 24 years for highway robbery and capital punishment for gang rape. Procedure or lack thereof, is another topic. Everyone is outraged at the recent motorway rape incident but most of the ideas are not practical, for example some exceptionally naïve people suggest DNA test should be made mandatory for all CNIC holders.
It is naïve for many reasons, least of them is privacy. It is impractical at this stage for the lack of funds that are needed. US is the richest country is the world and they have a serious backlog issue of testing past rape kits. I don’t want to talk about the only forensic lab we have in the country to process that kind of material. I am afraid I would give lawyers material to discredit its findings.
I am seriously appalled by sections of the media who start wild speculations and conspiracy theories in the race of breaking news, even before the LEA has reached a conclusion or a working theory. It’s simply ridiculous. If all the cases are going to be tried in media it is something to worry about. That being said it is due to lack of faith in police.
Educating the masses, uplift through industrialization is another topic. It can take up to a generation. We need short term measures. I do believe it can be done faster but that is another topic for another time. Right now it’s the issue of the current situation and policing.
Expecting this police force and courts which are meant for the peace time to handle global terrorists is simply wrong. It is a job for military courts.
What do we do when the budget of NYPD is more than half of that of our armed forces? What do we do when no one is interested in updating laws? What do we do when we have a semi-literate under-employed or unemployed youth along with the class difference, brown goras, illiterate inhuman criminals and a confused police? We need better police officers from top to bottom. We need to have excellent recruits who would improve the police in long run and we need to put the most competent people that we have on key positions right now.
Lawmakers make a law to curb some crime and other issues arise which are addressed way later. In my opinion the hatred of police starts with the needless and illegal moral policing of police for petty bribes and feeling powerful, and it has been there way before War on Terror. I urge people to study Shakeela vs. state. I do not intent to justify fornication; neither do I intend to encourage fear of police to get into humans.
For example, there is an ordinance which prohibits sale and consumption of food items during day hours in the holy month of Ramadan where Muslims fast. The purpose was to close restaurants during the day time, not for the police to use extortion on kids. As per the ordinance there are some five people who can ask the case be registered and then police can act. That includes chairman district counsel, at least two members of usher and zakat committee and three equally inaccessible members who are meant to check on restaurants. What happened instead was people read half the law, so did the police and started mocking and misusing it.
Rape is a crime which is very, very hard on the victim even with countries with the best of systems to protect the witness. Facing the accused itself is a horror. I consider myself agreeing on the feminists at many levels and in general I support the #MeToo moment. The problem is that the whole green zone experiment did not work in Iraq. Any and all reforms have to be at all levels. It is the job of police to catch criminals.
Let’s raise a voice for special victims unit for rape. Believe me if Hyderabad is not safe, Karachi would not be either. If Sheikhupura is not safe, Lahore would not be either whether you deploy camera or monitor city through drones. It has been seen in US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. This simply doesn’t work. You can make gated communities, you can raise walls but no one is a Special Forces soldier here.
We need to have a better CM in Punjab. Unlike most I had hopes for Mr Waseem Akram plus when he was sworn in. He is a complete disaster. Apart from that we have officers like Umar Sheikh who don’t know that it is against the law to discuss the victim at the first place. I also have reservations when they induct people into PSP from CSS, however I do agree to an extent that it is a necessary evil.
I wrote on police reforms, and talked about some basic steps which I believe are necessary. But the promise of Imran government was that they would fix the current system. My naïve friends of PTI youth used to say we would ourselves stop Imran Khan when he does something wrong. I just marveled at their passion and that they don’t realize they wouldn’t have permission to get within miles of their leader except a scheduled and scripted meeting, as is the case with PMLN and PPP leaders.
My dear naïve friends had this imaginary future that Imran Khan and his team would roam in bazaars observing people like Khalifa Haroon Rasheed. I don’t blame them; learning is a process. Their feeble attempts to get the CCPO removed or even apologized have gone unnoticed so far. And changing one officer would be one of the cosmetic measures if he is to be replaced by a similar one.
One may oppose or support General (r) Pervez Musharraf and one may find the room for improvement in women protection bill but that’s something, that was an attempt to fix the system. It is an irony that all the criminals can ignore the law and can get guns while law abiding citizens cannot. How many bills and acts legislation, ordinances of updating the laws by laws and procedure have been attempted or passed since 2006?
Apparently police is concerned about law abiding citizens having guns. We can have some laws similar to US on guns; law abiding men and women should be allowed to carry weapons. Self-defence classes by retired LEA personals is another short term and inexpensive measure. The concept of illegal search is alien to most ordinary citizens. They are not wrong; it’s alien to our society. Have a lawyer on speed dial. And I repeat that we need a special victims unit; at least start from somewhere and then expand it.
In short term we can turn such cases to military courts, there is constitutional precedence. May be if we respect the laws of privacy and values of basic human dignity majority of rape cases would not go unreported. May be. That is the only short term solution I can think of. There is constitutional precedence of handing over cases to military courts. We did that after APS and it worked. Victim blaming is horrible, especially If it is by the police.
I am appalled by this specific incident like the rest of the nation. But I have fears. Rape cases are complicated and you almost never have a perfect victim who cannot be blamed. In this case we do have a perfect victim, a housewife dragged from her car on highway by strangers. I am afraid all parties from right wing to left would use it to fit it in their narrative and promote it. The accused would either be killed in an encounter or punished according to the law, and people would forget.
Much like the child Zainab, although this case like Zainab case would leave a print in the memory of people. However People would forget; that is my fear. I hope I am wrong and reforms take place to tackle rape and other crimes.
Dear Imran Khan, please do something, learn from the disaster that India is for women.