Five days after he questioned a gang-rape victim for driving late at night, Umar Sheikh has offered a mea culpa
Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh on Monday offered an apology to a gang-rape victim for a statement in which he appeared to suggest she shared some of the blame.
“I did not mean anything wrong or [to give a wrong] perception,” he told journalists. “If any misunderstanding was caused because of me, then I apologize—from the depths of my heart—to my sister who was victimized and to all sections of society who were saddened or angered,” he added.
Sheikh issued his initial statement on Wednesday while speaking to media about the gang-rape and robbery of a woman in the presence of her children on the Sialkot-Lahore Motorway. “I am first of all shocked,” he told a private TV channel. “You are a mother of three and the only driver late at night … should have taken the GT Road [instead of the Motorway], which is densely populated,” he said, adding that she should at least have checked her fuel before heading out.
A day later, as outrage over the victim-blaming statement mounted, he doubled down in various media interactions, claiming he did not mean to blame the victim but “our society does not permit women to be out late at night alone.”
He then went on to “advise” the residents of Pakistan to “take care in future” and stop their sisters, wives and mothers from going out late at night without any guardians, or from driving alone.
The CCPO’s statement has attracted much scorn, and prompted nationwide protests for his removal on Saturday. However, several government lawmakers—including Special Assistant to the P.M. on Accountability Shehzad Akbar and Planning Minister Asad Umar—have come forward in his support and dismissed his statement as merely “unnecessary.”
On Monday, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan slammed the government for the CCPO’s statement, adding that the entire federal cabinet should apologize for the victim blaming of Sheikh. “What kind of investigation is this where the CCPO is saying the victim is wrong? A lot of ministers issued distasteful statements,” he said and demanded the government investigate the CCPO’s comments to reassure the country’s women that they did not also have to fear the police.
On Tuesday night, two armed men robbed and gang-raped a mother of three in the presence of her children on the Sialkot-Lahore Motorway while she was waiting for aid after running out of fuel shortly after crossing the toll plaza.
Police have thus far identified primary accused Abid Ali through DNA verification but efforts to locate his accomplice have yet to bear fruit. Raids were conducted over the weekend to apprehend Ali, but police say he remains at large.