Inquiry on as police grill rape victim
KARACHI, Sept 8: Conducting the formal investigations in the case of a young woman who was subjected to gang rape on the premises of a government hospital is nerve-wracking for the victim as well as the investigators.
At the packed investigation room of the Landhi police station, the quiet is broken every few minutes by the screams of the 23-year-old nurse struggling to come to terms with the crime committed against her person. While attempting to ascertain the facts, police officers witness the indescribable psychological impact of rape.
The incident has also caused ripples of concern about security in government hospitals and the Sindh health department has set up a high-powered committee to investigate the matter.
“I can’t tell you anything else, so it’s better to leave me alone,” says the victim regarding the assaults on her person at the Landhi Medical Complex. “I have already named all the people who abused me and reduced me to this condition. There is no fact left that I have not already communicated to you.”
According to the information submitted to the police, the young woman — a resident of Landhi and a nurse at the Civil Hospital Karachi — went to the Landhi Medical Complex on Thursday to have the dressing changed on a skin problem. The dressing was being changed by a ward boy, Asad, when ward boys Mehtab, Arshad, Junaid and Rashid entered the room and allegedly subjected the nurse to gang rape. Reportedly, Asad tried but failed to prevent the crime and did not take part in the assault.
The case was registered (FIR No 160/07) under Section 376-ii of the Pakistan Penal Code, entitled ‘Punishment for Rape’ and substituted by the Protection of Women Act VI, 2006.
The five ward boys named in the FIR went into hiding but police say that Mehtab and Junaid have now been arrested.
“We have arrested two out of the five accused,” said Aziz Memon, the station house officer (SHO) of the Landhi police station.
“As the investigation progresses, we have learnt additional facts that establish that this case is not as simple as it appears.”
Though a medical examination conducted at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Complex (JPMC) confirms the assault on the nurse, the police suspect that the crime was motivated by more than mere lust. According to SHO Memon, the victim also named members of the hospital staff, including some older persons, whom she blames for having aided and abetted the crime.
“We suspect that the accused knew the victim well,” said Mr Memon. “At any rate, we have sent the arrested men to the Civil Hospital for a chemical examination and the final report will take some time.”
Police surgeon Dr Bashir Shaikh told Dawn that both the suspects would have been physically capable of committing the crime and semen samples have been obtained from them, which would be compared with samples taken from the victim’s clothing. “The report concerning the semen match will be submitted in about three weeks,” he said.
Meanwhile, a senior official told Dawn that an investigation team comprising senior officials of the Sindh health department has been set up and will submit a final report within three to four days. Agreeing that negligence on part of the hospital management led to the shocking incident, Sindh Health Secretary Mumtaz-ur-Rahman expressed the intention to raise such administrative issues with the officials concerned and said that “we will take action against anyone found responsible for this shameful incident on the hospital premises.”
The incident has raised questions about the security in government hospitals in view of the city’s rising crime rate. Almost all health facilities, other than those falling in the public sector, hire the services of private security agencies. This leaves government centres exposed to regrettable incidents.
The authorities agree, but view the situation as beyond their control. “It is true that there are security issues in government hospitals but several administrative and financial matters need to be addressed first,” said the health secretary, explaining that the government faces several hurdles within hospital managements when it takes up issues such as that in Landhi Medical Complex. He added, however, that the ministry is “monitoring the situation closely and would not avoid taking serious action against any official found responsible in the investigators’ report.”
“We faced tough resistance from the Bhittai Hospital paramedics when we launched an inquiry into the kidnapping of a baby last month,” he said. “But we didn’t compromise and we intend to follow the same strategy in this case.Â”