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Lahore-Sialkot motorway rape: a timeline

Everything you need to know about the case

SAMAA | - Posted: Mar 20, 2021 | Last Updated: 7 months ago
Posted: Mar 20, 2021 | Last Updated: 7 months ago

Activists of the Aurat (Woman) March shout slogans during a rally to mark International Women's Day in Islamabad on March 8, 2020. - Protesters marched in Pakistani cities on March 8 to mark International Women's Day in an ultra-conservative society where women are still put to death under ancient "honour" codes. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

A woman was raped in front of her children by two men on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway on September 9, 2020. The case rattled the country and reignited the debate on whether capital punishment should be fixed for rapists or not.

Here’s how things unfolded over the last six months.

March 20

Rapists sentenced to death

A Lahore court has sentenced to men to death for raping a woman. The verdict was announced by Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta after six months.

March 18

Court reserves verdict

A special bench of an anti-terrorism court in Lahore has reserved its verdict in the case after six months. The verdict will be announced on March 20.

March 9

Statements of 25 witnesses recorded

An anti-terrorism court has recorded the statement of 25 witnesses in the case and their cross-examination has also been completed. Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta heard the case.

The witnesses include ASP Daniyal Ashraf, ASP Muhammad Yousaf, Qazi Laiq of the Punjab Forensics Agency, ASF’s Rizwan Khan, Head Constable Tariq Mahmood, Dolphin Force officer Muhammad Abbasi, mechanic Athar, ASI Ahsan Elahi. The case has been adjourned till March 11

March 3

Court indicts suspect, they deny charges

A special anti-terrorism court indicted Abid Malhi and Shafqat Bagga in the rape case. Charges were read out against them and they denied them. The court instructed the prosecution to present their four witnesses at the next hearing.

February 7

Challan handed over to the prosecution

The investigation officer told an anti-terrorism court that the challan has been given to the prosecution for scrutiny. The hearing was adjourned till February 10.

November 18, 2020

Suspect sent to jail

The police produced on Wednesday Shafqat, a suspect in the Lahore motorway case, before anti-terrorism court in Lahore. He was produced before the court of Admin Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta amid tight security.
The suspect has already recorded his confessional statement at the Cantt Kutcheri.

He has been sent to jail on judicial remand till December 1.

November 2, 2020

Prime suspect remanded into police custody

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore remanded prime suspect Abid Malhi into police custody for 15 days.

October 28, 2020

Court approves suspect’s 10-day physical remand

An anti-terrorism court extended the physical remand of Shafqat for 10 days. The judge asked the police for an update on the investigation. Law enforcers told the court that they had recovered a wooden shaft which the suspect used to smash the glass window of the rape survivor’s car.

October 27, 2020

Suspect’s judicial remand extended

An anti-terrorism court extended the judicial remand of Abid Malhi till November 2. He wasn’t presented in court. The survivor has been summoned again for another identification parade.

October 22, 2020

Survivor identifies rapist

The survivor confirmed that Abid Malhi raped her during an identification parade in the presence of a judicial magistrate.

October 14, 2020

Punjab CM announces reward for Punjab police

Punjab CM Usman Buzdar announced a reward for the Punjab police team that arrested the prime suspect in the Lahore motorway rape case.

October 13, 2020

PEMRA lifts ban on TV coverage

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has suspended the notification barring TV channels from covering the motorway rape case.

Malhi sent to jail

An anti-terrorism court in Lahore has sent Abid Malhi to jail on a 14-day remand. His accomplice, Shafqat Ali, who was already in police custody was also brought before the court after an identification parade. Ali has been remanded into police custody until October 28.

October 12, 2020

Prime suspect arrested

The prime suspect in the motorway rape case has been arrested a month after being on the run from the police.

Abid Malhi is being taken to Lahore, the police said. He was arrested in Faisalabad. His accomplice, Shafqat, is already in police custody.

Investigating teams shuffled

The investigation has been hampered by the recent changes in the Punjab police. Lahore SSP Investigation Zeeshan Asghar was recently replaced by Abdulghaffar Kaysrani and many other officers were shuffled too.

The police have conducted five raids to arrest the prime suspect. He was on the run even for 33 days.

The police had created 28 teams to investigate and research the case. The new replacements and previous police officers investigating the case have not convened yet.

October 2, 2020

PEMRA bans case coverage

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority barred news channels from covering the case.

While imposing the ban, PEMRA referred to the order of a Lahore anti-terrorism court hearing the case. The court said that one of the accused in the case had been remanded into judicial custody for the purpose of the identification parade.

It ruled that the media coverage of the case would diminish the evidentiary worth of the material gathered by the prosecution.

September 30, 2020

Survivor agrees to record statement

The survivor in the motorway rape case has agreed to record her statement via telephone. She is also expected to confirm the identity of in custody suspect Shafqat Ali as one of the rapists.

Suspect’s remand extended

The police also received a 14-day extension in suspect Shafqat’s judicial remand. The identification parade hasn’t been held yet.

September 28, 2020

CCPO apologises

Lahore CCPO Umar Sheikh apologised with folded hands before the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights over the Lahore motorway rape case. Throughout the session, Sheikh repeatedly misnamed the main suspect in the case. He kept calling him Babar Ali, while his actual name is Abid Ali.

During the committee meeting, the CCPO said, “It looks like the woman left the house without her husband’s permission.” When he said this, senators grew furious and called him out.

PPP Senator Quratulain Marri corrected him for incorrect information he said about a man calling the police immediately after seeing the woman’s car.

She questioned him regarding his knowledge of the case and said he was unaware of the investigation. To this, Sheikh folded his hands and apologised.

September 18, 2020

Suspect’s ID card blocked

The police have blocked suspect Abid Ali’s ID card and his name has been placed on the Black List.

There are 28 investigation teams and 31,000 police officers looking for him.

The police have taken four people into custody in Raja Jhang who were in contact with him. They say they have received important information from one suspect, Shafqat Ali, and his wife.

September 15, 2020

Suspect presented in court

The police presented Shafqat, who confessed to the crime, in a Lahore district and sessions court. He was remanded into police custody for six days.

His face was covered with a cloth and strict security measures were taken as the suspect appeared before the court of Additional Sessions Judge Misbah Khan.

The police said that terrorism charges have been included against him in the FIR too.

Prime suspect’s ‘gang member’ arrested

The Lahore police have arrested another suspect, identified as Iqbal alias Bala Mistry, in the case.

Mistry, who was arrested in Sialkot, is said to be a suspected gang member of the prime suspect Abid Malhi. His name was disclosed by another suspect, Shafqat.

Shafqat said that Malhi had called him to Lahore and he was accompanied by Mistry. But Mistry drove away even before they reached Lahore.

September 14, 2020

Two suspects arrested

The police arrested one of the two main suspects from Dipalpur in Okara district. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar confirmed the arrest of Shafqat Ali, saying that his DNA had matched and the suspect had confessed to the crime.

Earlier in the day, another suspect surrendered to the Sheikhupura police. The suspect, identified as Abbas, is the brother-in-law of Waqar, who was named as one of the main suspects in the case during a press conference on September 12. The police said that Waqar’s name propped up as his mobile SIM was traced at the motorway during geofencing.

Lahore CCPO should apologise for blaming survivor: court

The Lahore CCPO and cabinet should’ve apologised for blaming the survivor in the Lahore motorway rape case, said Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan while hearing a petition on the formation of a judicial commission in the case. “What sort of a departmental head holds the victim responsible for the crime?”

The chief justice has summoned a complete report from the government’s lawyer. He has instructed the Punjab IG to submit a report on the security plan of all the roads.

CCPO Lahore appears in court

“This portion [of motorway] was operating without handing and taking over,” CCPO Lahore Umar Sheikh remarked. Many motorways have been built in the last few years. “I have said in earlier meetings that we don’t have the personnel to depute.”

The 130 [motorway helpline] person did the right thing by arranging a conference call of the woman and an FWO major. She should have called 15. It’s common sense, he said.

The chief justice asked him, why should she have called herself? “When she had called 130, they should have contacted 15. The major she talked to should have informed 15.”

‘Chemical castration should be the punishment for rapists’

Prime Minister Imran Khan suggested chemical castration as the punishment for rapists in the country. “Chemical castration should be done on them,” he said in an interview with 92 News Monday. His comments come days after the rape of a woman on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in Punjab. “This happens in many countries.”

Murad Saeed: Lahore rape didn’t take place on motorway

Minister for Communications Murad Saeed said that the Gujjarpura gang rape of a woman that enraged the whole country didn’t take place on the Sialkot-Lahore motorway.

“Let me repeat it again, the incident didn’t take place on the motorway,” Saeed said in the National Assembly. The minister, however, didn’t specify the area where it took place.

Read the complete story here.

September 13, 2020

Suspect surrenders to police

Suspect Waqarul Hassan surrendered to the CIA Model Town police. The suspect denied any involvement in the case.

The 36-year-old surrendered after his CNIC card and picture were flashed across multiple television channels. He arrived at the police station with a relative at 11am on Sunday and surrendered before duty SP Hasnain.

Police sources say that the man has denied being near the crime scene at the time of the rape. He has a criminal background and was released from jail two weeks ago.   

September 12, 2020       

Punjab IG reveals the names of suspects

Punjab IG Inam Ghani announced, in a press conference, that they have identified the two men involved in the crime, adding that the police tried to arrest them but they managed to escape.

The prime suspect was identified as Abid Ali, a resident of Fort Abbas in Bahawalnagar, and Waqarul Hassan as his accomplice.

The police asked people to help them trace the suspects. The CM even announced a Rs2.5 million award each for those who will help.

Women and men stage protests across Pakistan

Women and men across Pakistan staged a protest against the rape. The protests were held in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Hyderabad.

lahore motorway protest
Photo: SAMAA Digital

CJP says govt needs to ‘wake up’

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed expressed concern over the Lahore motorway rape case and says the government needed to “wake up”. He said that the police were currently in the hands of “juvenile” and “non-professional” individuals.

Court petitioned to form judicial commission

A lawyer, Nadeem Sarwar, filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the case. In his petition, he has mentioned rape cases from 2018 and 2019 and asked the court to summon five years worth of data on rape cases and make them public.

Punjab Forensic Authority matches possible rapist’s DNA

Fifty-three DNA samples were taken after the rape. One of the samples taken from the crime scene matched with DNA already in the Punjab Forensic Authority’s database.

The match was of a 25-year-old Bahawalnagar resident who raped a mother and daughter in 2013, according to police sources. His DNA was at three spots at the crime scene– the victim’s clothes, the smashed car window, and inside the car itself.

September 13, 2020

Punjab Police take charge of motorway’s security

The Punjab Police took charge of the security of the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway and deployed 250 personnel of the Special Protection Unit, CSP, and Highway Patrol Unit.

The stretch of the motorway was unmanned.

48 DNA samples collected by Punjab police

The Punjab police decided to obtain DNA samples of residents living in areas near where the woman was raped. At least 48 samples were taken.

September 10, 2020

Twelve suspects arrested

Twelve people were taken into custody over their suspected involvement. The police even collected evidence from the site.

At least 20 teams were formed to investigate the case. This includes teams of the Special Branch, CIA, and Investigation Police.

Police say there is only one village near the area. Residents are being questioned about the incident.

CCPO Lahore to lead the investigation

Shahbaz Gill, the special assistant to the PM on political communication, said the Lahore CCPO is leading the investigation and they are using the techniques of urban and rural policing.

CCPO Lahore Umar Sheikh’s controversial remarks

Lahore CCPO Umar Sheikh’s remarks about the woman’s decision to take the motorway with her children have been widely criticised by politicians and activists on social media.

Umar Sheikh, the Lahore CCPO, appeared on Dunya News after the rape was reported and preferred to talk about the survivor’s decision to take the motorway with her children before explaining what his force was doing to apprehend the criminals.

Click here to read what he said.

September 9, 2020

Woman raped on motorway

A woman was raped in front of her children by two unidentified men on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway.

She was driving to Gujranwala when she ran out of fuel near Lahore’s Gujjarpura. The woman was sitting in her vehicle when two men walked towards her car, broke her window, and made her park on the roadside. They then took her and the children to a nearby forest and raped her.

The men fled after the rape, taking with them three ATM cards, 100,000 in cash and jewellery.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the Punjab IG took notice of the incident and orders officials to submit a report.

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