CCPO Umar Sheikh has become the center of debate surrounding the horrific motorway incident last month after his comments have been deemed derogatory towards the victim and against cases of assault.
This time, the reaction at his comments hasn’t just come from the public. The Senate Human Rights Panel was also irked on Monday during a briefing on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway gang-rape case provided by the CCPO, who once again seemed to fault the victim for the incident.
The members also took exception to the “contradictory” police findings, which they observed had created “doubts and suspicions” about the investigation.
Sheikh was summoned by the committee to explain the progress of the case that sparked outrage across the country and also exposed the lack of security on a key route.
The CCPO’s assumption that the incident had occurred because the victim was traveling alone without her husband has been called out by the Senate committee. The officer was berated for assuming such a thing when he couldn’t prove that such a statement had come from the victim herself.
When the committee reprimanded him for giving his “personal opinions” instead of stating facts of the case, Sheikh backtracked and said that “he had been told that the victim had left late at night because she had to talk to her husband on video call”.
The committee members said that providing security to citizens was the job of the State, regardless of the time and reason behind traveling.
Sheikh informed the committee that the police had identified the culprits within 72 hours through geofencing, DNA testing, fingerprints and foot tracking technology. He said that one of the suspects, Shafqat Ali alias Bagga, was under arrest while the main suspect Babar Malik was absconding.
According to committee member Ainee Marri, Sheikh was confused as to the name of the main suspect. She said that despite the suspect’s name being Abid Ali, the CCPO continued to refer to him as Babar Malik.
“Is the main suspect [named] Abid or Babar? You are investigating this case and you don’t know the name of the main suspect,” she said.
Sheikh said that if the victim had called 15, police would have arrived in time. He said that a police team arrived at the scene in 28 minutes. However, issues arose about the exact time it took rescue teams to respond. According to the committee, discussions in previous meetings had told the panel that the police arrived in 6 minutes. They further added that police statements were “contradictory” and were creating “doubts” about the investigation.
Members of the panel told the CCPO not to “misguide” the committee.
“Even the US’ police cannot reach the site in six minutes, how can we?” Sheikh responded.
With nothing else left to say, CCPO Sheikh apologized to the committee and asked for a joint session to be called so he could apologize to all lawmakers together.