Pakistani police say they have arrested one of the two suspects in the rape of a woman who was pulled from her car and attacked when her car broke down on a desolate highway in central Punjab province.
The police, who say he is in his 30s, was driving with his two children outside the East Lahore city late Wednesday night when his vehicle ran out of fuel.
He calls the police for help, but before they arrive, two men take him and his children out of the car at gunpoint and rape her at a farm on the side of the highway.
The suspects are also accused of stealing cash and jewelry from the woman before fleeing.
Atif Nazir, chief of the Punjab Police’s Criminal Investigation Team, said on Sunday that one of them was arrested when he tracked phone records and collected forensic evidence from the scene.
Nazir said that the suspect denied any involvement in the rape. Local media reported that the suspect resorted to police to prove himself innocent.
The arrest came after protests across Pakistan continued for the second day on Saturday to probe the investigation into the attack.
Punjab Province Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani told reporters on Saturday night that police had identified the two suspects through DNA tracing.
He said, “I hope very soon we will reach out to them and arrest them.”
A spokesman for East Punjab province, Musarrat Cheema, said that raids were being conducted to find the culprits.
The office of Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the protection of women is the first priority and responsibility of the government, adding that “such brutality and superiority cannot be allowed in any civilized society”.
But the protesters are not satisfied, and called for the sacking of the chief police investigator assigned to the case, Omar Sheikh, who has allegedly pointed out that he felt the victim had done wrong.
Sheikh has told that the woman should not have traveled on a different, busy, highway, at night, and ensure that there was enough fuel in her vehicle.
She also stated that she was under the impression that France was safe for Pakistan women as “their place of residence”. Requests for comment to the French embassy in Islamabad went unanswered
In Islamabad, several hundred protesters gathered, some waved French flags, and others made signs saying “hanging rapists”.
Alena Alvi said, “It’s very easy, incidents like this are not very new. The issue is instead of catching criminals or catching criminals, we always blame the victims.”
“I think the laws around rape victims have also changed, there was a law of the Women’s Protection Act, instead of this act, there is no longer any protection that has been given to victims.”
Hundreds, mostly women, also gathered in Lahore, Karachi and the northwestern city of Peshawar. “Break the silence, stop the violence”, read a plank in Peshawar.
The Global Rights Watch has reported that Pakistan has not done enough to commit violence against women, including holding criminals accountable.
The attack has particularly angered women who say public space in the country was already limited.
In the Islamabad protests organized by the Women’s Democratic Front Collective, Yemen Rehman said, “And now the police are telling you that you are responsible for your own safety.”