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ISLAMABAD: The Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore, Muhammad Umar Sheikh, on Monday said that the Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) should have a system of court martial to punish those officers who were found guilty of abuse of power or negligence in their duties on the same pattern the court martial was practiced in the armed forces of Pakistan to maintain discipline and efficiency in the forces.

"In my opinion, the introduction of court martial in police is the key-to keep the house in order as far as this force is concerned," he told the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights presided over by Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar. He said internal accountability was necessary to improve efficiency in the police department by taking on those cops who did not abide by their responsibilities dutifully as well as those who misused their powers. "When we talk about police, the very first word that comes to our mind is reforms. Reforms are essential to ensure an effective system of accountability within police," he said.

Briefing police progress on motorway rape incident, the CCPO said four different authorities with separate help lines were operational in the area where the incident took place. The victim, instead of calling Rescue 15, called motorway helpline and was later connected to Frontier Works Organization (FWO) helpline through conference call. An officer of Major rank at the FWO sent a vehicle for the assistance of the victim but that vehicle arrived late, he said.

"There is a strange and confusing system in place at Lahore motorway. There were no surveillance cameras installed at the toll plaza concerned nor was there any computerized record of vehicles. The area where the incident took place is at motorway but any kind of assistance to travellers is provided by FWO. There are too many overlapping things. New roads have been opened for travel but there are no staffs to take care of passengers and no resources or equipment have been allocated for the facilitation and protection of passengers," he said.

"Had the victim contacted 15, we would have reached out to her within 25 minutes. There should be only one helpline number, like the rest of the world, for the assistance of travellers at motorway."

The CCPO said the culprits involved in the rape incident were identified within 72 hours, and the DNA of both suspects, Abid Malhi and Shafqat matched. "Still we were worried 'what if the victim refused to identify the suspects?" he said, adding that Qanoon-e-Shahadat (law of evidence) needed to be amended to strengthen prosecution in criminal cases.

The DNA of Malhi, the prime suspect in motorway rape case, matched in another rape case back in the year 2013 but he was acquitted in this case after the witness backtracked from statement, he said.

Efforts are underway for the arrest of Malhi, and he would be nabbed soon, Sheikh said, adding that the suspect was not linked to any organised gang or high-profile personality.

The committee summoned Federal Secretary for Communications Zafar Hasan; Chairman National Highways Authority (NHA) Captain Sikander Qayyum (retd), and Inspector General National Highways and Motorway Police (NHMP) Syed Kaleem Imam, in the next meeting to brief the committee on the matter.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020