ISLAMABAD: Members of Pakistan's civil society, rights activists, and women on Monday gathered at Islamabad's Fatima Jinnah Park or F-9 park to protest against the alleged gang rape of a woman at the same venue last week, demanding the immediate arrest of the culprits and safer public spaces for women.
According to a police report, two armed men took turns raping a woman at Islamabad's F-9 park. The victim, who filed a first information report (FIR) under Section 376 (punishment for rape) at the Margalla Police Station, said the incident took place on February 2.
As per a copy of the FIR seen by Arab News, the complainant says she was walking in the park with her colleague when two armed men took them at gunpoint to a nearby forest. There, they beat the woman and took turns raping her. Before leaving, the suspects threatened to call more of their friends to sexually assault her if she spoke of the incident, the report said.
The episode triggered widespread anger on social media when the incident came to light a few days ago. Rights activists, members of the civil society, and women from different walks of life attended the protest arranged by the Women Democratic Front (WDF), a socialist-feminist movement.
Participants walked in solidarity with the victim, demanding the police take swift action against the culprits.
Nageen Hayat, a filmmaker and member of the Women's Action Forum (WAF), a Pakistani women's rights organization, said women were feeling helpless as the capital did not feel safe for them anymore.
“It is an extremely shocking and traumatic incident,” she told Arab News, adding that Islamabad used to be a safe city once but recently, cases of violence against women and children had increased in the city.
Human rights activist Farzani Bari called for the rapists to be caught as soon as possible, adding that when police and authorities want to arrest criminals, they do so "right away."
She said it was unfortunate that in the cases where women were involved, police did not work efficiently. “The conviction rate is also very low in cases of sexual violence against women,” Bari added.
She said the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and the city's local administration were responsible for making public spaces safer for women.
“Normally women come out for a walk at night after work, so there should be proper lighting, surveillance cameras, and guards all around the park,” she added.
Islamabad Police Spokesperson Jawad Taqi said police, along with the district administration, was improving security arrangements of the capital's parks.
“Visitors to the park during evening hours are requested to limit themselves to [well-lit] areas and in case of any emergency, immediately call 15 for assistance,” he told Arab News.
He said the incident is being investigated by the Special Gender Protection Unit under the supervision of CPO Operations Sohail Zafar Chatta. Taqi said people who were present in the park at the time as well as its management were being questioned.
“The police has also issued a sketch of one of the suspects which was prepared with the help of the details provided by the victim," Taqi said. He said the sketch would be matched with the CCTV footage of the park premises, adding that police were investigating the incident on a scientific basis.
“The DNA of the suspects in the incident is also being taken and evidence is being collected based on [help from] cameras and intelligence,” he said, adding that the culprits would be brought to book soon.
WDF President, Ismat Raza Shahjahan, who was also the chief organizer of the event, said the state had failed to provide peace and security to the people.
“This state is only taking from the public and failed to provide security and peace,” she told Arab News. “The patriarchy is promoted by the state as it is a strategic asset for them and this is the reason that every other man puts a gun on women,” Shahjahan added.
Muhammad Anwaar, a member of the left-wing socialist Awami Workers Party, said he came to the protest to support women and demand a safe environment for them.
“I am here to protest and support women, and if this can happen with this woman, tomorrow it can happen with my sister [too]," Anwaar added.