P.M. Imran Khan briefed on progress in case, with IGP vowing to ensure all suspects receive exemplary punishment
Police in Islamabad on Friday announced that they had arrested another man suspected to be involved in the sexual and physical assault of a young couple, while the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been briefed on progress in the ongoing investigation.
Earlier this week, a video clip of the abuse—allegedly filmed by one of the suspects—went viral on social media, provoking widespread outrage over the criminal actions of primary accused Usman Mirza and his co-accused. Thus far, police have arrested five men over their role in the assault, including Mirza, Hafizur Rehman, Shaheen Awan, and Madaris Butt. Bilal Marwat has been identified as the fifth man arrested thus far. Police say they are now searching for three more co-accused, adding that they are on the run and would be located and apprehended.
The videos, which police have sought help from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block access to in a bid to protect the identities of the victims, clearly show at least six people sexually harassing and assaulting the boy and girl. Reportedly filmed earlier this year, the clips show the suspects holding the couple at gunpoint; forcing them to strip; beating them up while verbally abusing them; and forcing them to perform sexual acts on each other while threatening them with physical harm.
According to the FIR registered by police, the suspects are being held under Sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force to woman and stripping her of her clothes, which carries a maximum penalty of death), 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Pakistan Penal Code. Police have told media that these are all serious offenses, and they would ensure that evidence supporting the charges is provided to court.
On Thursday night, police met the couple at the boy’s residence, saying he had informed them that the girl had come to Islamabad from Lahore and he had arranged an apartment for her stay with the assistance of an acquaintance. They said the couple had informed them that they were followed by six people who also had keys to the apartment. The group allegedly barged its way into the apartment, held the couple at gunpoint, forced them to strip, subjected them to sexual assault, beat them and threatened them physical harm if they did not cooperate. The suspects also filmed them while forcing them to perform vulgar acts, police added.
According to the male victim, the suspects later started blackmailing them with the videos, claiming they would make them public if they did not pay up. They also, said police, tried to get the victims to visit them and submit to further harassment. The victim told police he had paid Rs. 1.3 million as extortion money thus far.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, P.M. Khan met Islamabad Inspector General of Police Qazi Jamilur Rehman on Friday and was briefed on progress of the case. It said that the IGP had assured the premier that he was personally monitoring the case, and would ensure the case was strong enough to get the suspects convicted.
The IGP was cited as saying police were “using all available resources and scientific methods” to gather evidence against the suspects. He also updated the prime minister on the law and order situation in the federal capital.
Earlier, an Islamabad judicial magistrate granted four days physical remand of three of the suspects—Mirza, Rehman, Awan—allegedly involved in the case. During proceedings, the counsel for Rehman and Awan claimed they had been trying to stop primary accused Mirza from harassing the couple. However, the prosecution argued that police had yet to locate all the suspects’ phones and similar devices, and needed more time to complete their probe.
Police have told media that they suspect the accused—all of them property or car dealers—might be part of an organized gang that preys on young couples in Islamabad. They said that the phones recovered thus far contain multiple videos of harassment featuring the accused, adding that it appears that the gang would rent out apartments to young couples, film them, and then extort money from them in exchange for not publicizing the videos. However, they stressed, this could only be confirmed once all accused had been arrested and investigated.