Police claim charges against alleged rapists had to be dropped because investigation revealed Amina Bibi had not been raped.
A teenager died on Friday after she set herself on fire to protest a court dropping charges against four men accused of raping her, police said. The incident occurred in the Muzaffargarh district of Punjab province, where the horrific 2002 gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai made headlines around the world.
Amina Bibi, aged 18 according to police, doused herself with petrol and set herself alight on Thursday in front of a police station in the village of Beet Meer Hazar. Pakistani news channels aired horrifying footage showing the self-immolation and desperate attempts by onlookers to put the flames out.
She was taken to a nearby government-run hospital where the doctors tried to save her but she succumbed to her injuries early on Friday, police said. She was allegedly assaulted by four men, including a family member, in early January and reported the incident to police.
But a local court in Muzaffargarh dropped the case on Thursday following a police report that said she had not been raped, prompting Bibi to take the desperate measure.
“Nadir, the main accused in the case was a relative of the victim and they had a family dispute,” said senior local police official Chaudhry Asghar Ali. “The case was investigated twice and investigators discovered that the victim had not been raped.”
The Supreme Court on Friday demanded an explanation for the incident, ordering the provincial police chief and district police chief to appear in the court in person. The court ordered police to file a written report explaining how the case was investigated and why the accused men were cleared.
The Punjab police chief’s spokeswoman said an investigation team had been sent to the area to investigate. “We have sent an enquiry team to the area and have suspended the police officials who were investigating the case,” said Nabeela Ghazanfar, spokeswomen of the Punjab police chief.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan demanded the government take steps to ensure rapists are brought to justice. “Her sacrifice has exposed the ordeals that rape victims in the country face when they try to bring their tormentors to justice,” the group said. “It is common knowledge that only the courageous rape victims in Pakistan take the matter to the police or court.”