Lahore: The prime suspect in the gang rape of a woman in front of her three children on a highway here has been identified, Pakistan prime minister’s special assistant said on Saturday, amidst protests and mounting pressure on the government to hang the culprits.

The woman was allegedly raped by two robbers near Gujjarpura area on Wednesday while she was waiting for help on the road after her car developed a fault or run out of fuel, police said.

A medico-legal report also confirmed the rape.

“Congratulation to the Punjab chief minister, the Inspector General of Police Punjab and Lahore police chief as the DNA of a suspect has been matched. And soon he will be arrested too,” Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant Shahbaz Gill tweeted on Saturday.

The incident has sparked a countrywide outcry. Religious parties are demanding the public hanging of the culprits.

A number of protests have been held in Lahore, Islamabad and other parts of the country, demanding the government to arrest the culprits and give them exemplary punishment.

A senior police officer told PTI that the prime suspect has been identified as Abid Ali, 27, a resident of Fort Abbas of Bahawalnagar, some 400 kilometres from Lahore.

“Abid Ali’s DNA has been matched and teams dispatched for his and his accomplice’s arrest. Ali was also involved in a gang-rape of a woman and her daughter back in 2013 in his residential area. He was caught but later released from jail after the affected family pardoned him probably under pressure,” he said.

The official said Ali’s accomplice has also been identified as Waqarul Hasan of Sheikhupura district.

The victim had returned from France along with her three children a few months ago. Her husband lives in Paris.

“They took me and my three children to nearby bushes where they raped me repeatedly in front of the children. They also snatched my purse that had around Rs. 100,000 in cash, one bracelet, car registration and three ATM cards,” she said in her statement to police.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government has also been under immense public pressure to remove the newly-appointed Lahore police chief Umer Shiekh for his ‘victim shaming’.

Sheikh had said that the woman should not have travelled late night along with her children.

“It is a question of Pakistan’s integrity that the culprits be caught and given the worst possible punishment. The entire system is guilty until the moment the perpetrators of this heinous, inhuman crime are caught and punished,” said Opposition PML-N leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif, who was declared absconder by a Pakistani accountability court in a corruption case this week, has been in London for his medical treatment since November 2019.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid President Chaudhry Shujaat Husain has demanded whipping of the culprits in public.

“Women feel unsafe all the time when in public places. Single women and single mothers must be given the same importance as others. There are many single women who are travelling across the cities, especially between Lahore and Islamabad. There should be the writ of the government on the streets of cities and towns and complete implementation of law,” said All Pakistan Women Association Durre Shawar.

Rights activist Farooq Tariq said the gang rape is a slap in the face of the police and the government as it has exposed several huge flaws in the system.

Minority rights activist Peter Jacob said it was not just this incident but a pattern that was making everyone feel insecure. 

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