Parliamentary secretary for law and justice says prosecution will not be deterred by victim’s refusal to pursue case
The Government of Pakistan will pursue the prosecution of Usman Mirza, the primary accused in the harassment of a couple from Islamabad, utilizing video and forensic evidence gathered during the investigation, Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari announced on Wednesday after the woman victim decided against pursuing the case.
“The State will pursue prosecution in the Usman Mirza case irrespective of recent developments relating to victim’s testimony,” she said in a posting on Twitter. “Irrefutable video and forensic evidence on record—anyone harassing and stripping a woman must face full force of the law,” she added.
Bokhari’s statement follows the woman victim of the harassment case withdrawing her statement and submitting an affidavit in an Islamabad District and Sessions Court maintaining she would no longer pursue the case. Last year, the victim had recorded a statement in front of the magistrate accusing Mirza and seven accomplices of threatening to “gang-rape her if she did not have sex with her friend while they filmed it.”
She had also alleged that she was “forced to perform a nude dance” in front of the accused and slapped when she refused to comply with their demands. Some of her statement could be easily verified from the leaked videos that went viral on social media last year and prompted police action.
The development had raised concern among observers that it would allow Mirza to go free despite police claiming that they had found dozens of videos in the accused’s phone of him and his accomplices harassing various couples.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the female victim submitted an affidavit claiming that the “police itself has created this case, neither I have recognized any accused nor have signed any papers.” She also claimed that she was not submitting the affidavit “under anyone’s pressure,” adding that she did not know “any of the accused” in the case. “No one has tried to assault me sexually, neither I know Rehan and nor he was making my video,” she claimed, and denied giving ransom money to anyone.
Last July, a video of four people holding a couple at gunpoint, forcing them to strip and then beating them up went viral on social media, prompting authorities to take action and place under arrest the accused that could be identified from the clip. Initially, an FIR was registered under sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force against a woman and stripping her of her clothes), 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. Subsequently, sections pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, extortion, and wrongful confinement were also included.
In September, charges were framed against Mirza, and his co-accused—Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Rehan, Umar Bilal Marwat, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen.