By Waseem Abbasi
Editor’s Note: The writer is an investigative/ data journalist based in Islamabad and working for The News. He has worked for the leading national and international media such as the USA Today. The opinions expressed in this article are his own.
Will 6-year-old Zainab who was brutally raped and killed in Kasur get justice? The police data shows she has just 6% chances. According to official figures obtained by this correspondent, incidents of rape have increased in district Kasur and the entire Punjab province during last four years but top Punjab police officials confirm the conviction rate in such crimes is below 6% only.
“We are encouraging rape in the society with less than 6% conviction rate. How do we expect a decline in these cases with this attitude?” asks Fauzia Waqar, Chairperson Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, an official body formed to promote rights of the softer gender in the province.
On average, more than seven women are raped in the province every day, according to official data which shows 10,774 women had been raped in the province since January 2014. Punjab police and Women rights officials admit that of 100 rapes, 94 perpetrators will walk free eventually.
The official data shows the number of the rape cases have increased steadily during last three years with 2813 cases in 2017 compared to 2781 in 2016 and 2511 cases in 2015. In Kasur District alone over 350 women were raped during last four years, police data shows.
According to Ms Waqar, lower judiciary and junior police official do not take rape cases seriously which results in below 6% conviction rate in such cases. “In developed countries like the United Kingdom conviction rate for rape is above 60% yet it is considered unsatisfactory,” she said.
She also came down hard on police for poor investigation and law enforcement. “How come they failed to arrest one man involved in six similar rape cases in Kasur during last three years? The performance of police leaves serious question mark,” she said.
The commission, she said was in contact with Punjab police on the Kasur incident and every effort will be made to ensure justice for the victim.
When asked about the major reasons for the surge in rape cases, the chairperson of the commission said exposure to pornography and changing demography are two other reasons for the phenomenon apart from a non-serious attitude of lower judiciary and lower police officials.
“Changing demography means more strangers are living in every neighbourhood which makes it easier for sex-offenders to conceal their reality,” she said adding that people are watching more porn thanks to an abundance of screens and smartphones which creates sexual frustration among them.
Additional Inspector-General Punjab Police Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh who was initially designated head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing Kasur incident, agreed with Ms Waqar on low conviction rate in rape cases. “Yes according to studies the conviction rate in rape cases is less than 6%,” AIG Bakhsh told Pak Voices.
On the question of poor investigation of police being responsible for the low conviction rate of rape offenders, AIG said police try their best to probe the case but in sometimes genuine rape cases are not reported to police while bogus cases are registered by some people to settle their disputes.
According to him, there are also resources constraints for police. “A DNA test costs between Rs40,000 to Rs70,000 in terms of the kit price and working hours.” While commenting on increasing rape incidents in Punjab during last three year, the senior police officer said in many areas crime rate has decreased too.
The official data obtained by this correspondent in collaboration with Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) using the Right to Information law shows that Kasur witnessed 81 incidents of rape and 20 incidents of gang rape in 2014.
The following year the incidents of rape climbed to 87 in the district while gang rape was slightly decreased to 17. In 2016 rape incidents jumped up to 115 in the district while 24 incidents of gang rape were also recorded by the police. In first six months of 2017 more than 33 incidents of rape were reported in Kasur where three gang-rapes were also reported by police.
A senior police official who served in the district told this correspondent that a pattern has been identified in Kasur where the same person has been found involved in six such cases during last three years.
The result of DNA tests shows the same offender involved in brutal rapes of six young girls in Kasur since 2015. The police officer said the result of DNA test for the accused involved in Zainab’s murder has also confirmed the serial rapist is involved in this heinous crime too.