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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel on Wednesday, while expressing serious displeasure over the absence of Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umer Sheikh from the meeting has decided to submit a privilege motion against him in the Senate of Pakistan.

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, which met here under the chairmanship of Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar to discuss the matters related to the Lahore motorway gang rape incident and comments passed by Umer Sheikh, which garnered widespread criticism over shifting the blame of the motorway gang-rape on the victim.

The Senate Human Rights Committee had directed the CCPO Lahore to appear before the meeting in person, but Sheikh failed to attend the panel meeting without notifying the body of a reason.

On his absence, the chairman committee questioned, "Has the CCPO Lahore descended from the sky?"

"Top officials are present here but the CCPO did not bother to attend the meeting and even ignored informing the meeting of sending any notice."

The chairman committee and other members decided to submit a privilege motion against the Lahore CCPO, and once again issued summons to him with directions to ensure the officer's presence at the next panel meeting.

Khokhar added that the police officer's absence was "unacceptable". On Monday, CCPO Sheikh had publicly apologised to the motorway gang-rape victim for his earlier remarks implying that she shared responsibility for her rape. Following the rape, the CCPO had invited criticism, when he pontificated that the victim had failed to take due precautions before setting off for her journey.

According to the Lahore police chief's logic, the woman could have avoided being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

He said she should have taken the more populated GT Road to Gujranwala instead of going via motorway, and that she ought to have checked how much fuel her car had before setting off.

The CCPO's comments had triggered a strong reaction from civil society and human rights activists, who condemned the statement and called for his removal from office.

He was subsequently issued a show-cause notice over his remarks by the Punjab Inspector General of Police, Inam Ghani.

During the meeting, the chairman of the National Highways Authority (NHA) briefed the committee on the rape.

Officials of the Communications Ministry told senators that the incident "did not take place on the motorway" but on another road managed by the NHA.

Inspector General (IG) National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) Syed Kaleem Imam informed the committee that the victim had called the Motorway Police helpline at 02:01am after her car ran out of fuel.

The call was received by an operator named, Abid, who was told by the woman about her situation. The operator told the woman that her location did not fall within the Motorway Police's jurisdiction and after the call informed the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) about her situation in a conference call, according to the IG NHMP.

"Who was responsible for the incident?" the committee members asked the IG NHMP, who responded that the road was managed by the federal government and overseen by the NHA.

He said the Motorway Police was deployed to a road after its construction was completed and where Motorway Police was absent, the policing responsibility lied with the local police.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020