Twists and turns

March 30, 2014

Twists and turns

Over two weeks have passed since 17-year-old Amna Bhand set herself on fire against the police high-handedness and apathy. The cops, allegedly responsible for pushing her to take this step, are yet to be apprehended. The accused have rather been favoured in this investigation.

Some rights activists hold that police are trying to twist a simple attempt to rape complaint into a rape incident by creating a medical report that has raised fingers on the girl’s virginity and innocence.

The Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Inspector General Police Punjab Khan Baig had ordered the Muzaffargarh police to arrest five cops -- Bait Mir Hazaar Khan SHO Muhammad Shahid, investigator Rana Zulfiqar, Inspector Muhammad Adris, DSP Muhammad Asghar and DSP Abdul Latif Kanjoo.

Police only arrested the investigator Rana Zulfiqar while the accused DSP Muhammad Asghar was granted protective bail from the Lahore High Court’s Multan bench. The rest of the three cops are still at large and the police is taking no action to apprehend them despite strict orders.

Rana Zulfiqar was sent on judicial remand for 14-days on March 24.

When contacted Muzaffargarh Assistant Superintendent Police, Rao Arif said that a high level team has been investigating the case. When asked about the police failure to arrest the accused policemen, he says, he was not handling the case.

The case has taken a complex dimension because of police malpractices. The complainant Amna Bhand is dead and the case lacks medical or forensic evidences to establish the incident. "Amna’s mother has contacted me and showed her willingness to initiate the case proceedings," says Irfan Arabi, legal counsel to Amna Bhand.

"It is the government’s duty to ensure conviction of the accused," he adds.

The Muzaffargarh district health authorities say the fresh postmortem report questions the girl’s virginity and establishes death due to heat and flames. The report confirms 20 burn and injury marks on her body. Her hymen was torn, and it could accommodate two fingers easily. No signs of tear, laceration, bruise or abrasion were found on the private part. Swabs were taken and sent to the DNA laboratory for complete test.

"The government needs to expedite the DNA test report," says a health official.

Blood samples were taken and sent to Lahore forensic agency. Some samples were sent to Lahore’s histopathologist for complete examination, said health officials.

Senior lawyer Syed Irfan Haider Shamsi observes the police imposed PPC sections 376/511, 354 in the FIR registered on attempt to rape complaint made by Amna Bhand on January 5, 2014. He says section 354-A/ PPC must be included in the FIR for maximum punishment to the accused.

"I’m astonished that police are conducting the DNA test of accused Nadir Bhand instead of submitting challan to the respective court for rigorous punishment to the accused. The DNA test means police are interested in establishing rape," he says.

Amna lodged her complaint stating that it was around 11:30am on January 5, when she was going back home from Bait Mir Hazaar with her brother Rehmatullah when three muffled faces riding a bike intercepted them near Chehna Malana forest. One of the assailants was identified as Nadir Bhand. Two persons seized Rehmatullah and Nadir dragged Amna to the nearby bushes at gunpoint and tried to attempt rape, but Amna cried for help and resisted. Rehmatullah made noise and people gathered as a result.

Sub-inspector Muhammad Iqbal had included the PPC sections.

This scribe visited Jatoi Tehsil Headquarters hospital, Basti Ghulam Muhammad Bhand and police station in Bait Mir Hazaar union council and interviewed Amna’s family, relatives, villagers and police officials to probe facts.

"I have sold my agriculture lands to educate my children. My daughter Azra was studying in first year when accused’s brother Jafar Bhand kidnapped her and forcibly contracted marriage with her. They are influential and have the backing of local landlords so they have no fear of law," says Farid Bhand, father of Amna.

Villagers and civil society activists present at Amna’s house did not rule out the possibility of pressure on her parents from the Bhand clan to end the case. They say police might harass the family to compromise. "The accused Nadir Bhand is a brother of Amna’s sister’s husband," says a civil society activist Muhammad Murtaza.

Village Bait Mir Hazaar Khan residents want the government to intervene and ensure a fair trial of attempt to rape complaint and award maximum punishment to the accused. Bait Mir Hazaar Khan union council is semi tribal where Gopangs, Legharis, Jatois and Syeds are influential political clans.

"Here, the thana culture has been playing a key role in replacing the centuries old jirga system by dividing the villagers through politics. Influential landlords are divided into small groups. The police and patwaris have established a strong liaison to exploit the general public," says President Saraiki Inqilabi Council, Muzaffar Magsi.

To the family’s regret, neither Syed Basit Sultan Bukhari, who won the National Assembly slot on the PML-N ticket, nor other politicians like Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi, Abdullah Shah Bukhari, Sardar Ashiq Khan Gopang, MPA Ahmed Karim Qaswar Langrrial, could attend Amna’s funeral prayer.

"We are poor people, so none of the politicians or elected representatives from the PPP, PML-N or PTI visited us to condole or sympathise. Only Javed Dasti, the brother of Jamshed Dasti visited us to condole," says Amna’s father.

Amna’s mother Nizam Mai holds some grudges -- "Bait Mir Hazaar Khan DSP Rana Asghar, SHO Muhammad Adris and investigator Rana Zulfiqar pressurised and harassed my daughter and the rest of the family members to withdraw complaint against accused Nadir Bhand."

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Task Force also visited the site. "This is a simple case of attempt to rape but police are making efforts to present it as a rape incident and raise questions about her character. The prime objective is to weaken her complaint. She committed suicide because of police injustice," says HRCP coordinator Rashid Rehman.

He is of the view that police have to submit challans to the respective court to convict the accused with rigorous imprisonment.

Rashid Rehman says the Punjab government must intervene and monitor police investigation on daily basis. The government must ensure that the case ends with a conviction instead of a compromise.

Bait Mir Hazaar Khan Union Council Lumbardar Iqbal Korai guessed that police had been bribed to destroy the case.

"The release of accused Nadir Bhand was extremely shocking to my daughter. Dejected, she immolated herself to death," says Amna’s father Ghulam Farid Bhand.

Twists and turns