‘Sufficient evidence’ available to try train rape suspects, rules court

Yousuf Katpar
Sunday, Jul 03, 2022

A District South judicial magistrate has accepted the final charge sheet against five suspects in the high-profile case of the gang rape of a passenger on the moving Bahauddin Zakaria Express.

The railway police filed the challan under Section 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), calling for four employees of the privately-run train -- Muhammad Zahid, Aqib Munir, Muhammad Zohaib and Amir Raza – to be tried for sexually abusing the woman, while one other – Mohammad Hafeez – for aiding and abetting the crime and hiding evidence.

In a shocking incident, the 25-year-old divorced woman, a mother of two children, was raped while she was travelling alone in the economy class on the night between May 27 and 28. The incident happened when the ticket checker offered her a seat in the air-conditioned compartment of the Multan-Karachi train, where he along with other train employees subjected her to sexual abuse.

Magistrate Syed Anwar Ali Shah accepted the charge sheet after scrutiny. “Sufficient material is available on record against the accused; hence, cognisance is taken and challan is accepted,” he said.

According to the content of the charge sheet, the victim got on the train from Multan on the evening of May 27.

She travelled without a reserved seat or berth until Rohri and when the train departed from the Rohri railway station, a ticket-checker, Zahid, luring her with a seat and berth, took her to an air-conditioned compartment of the train, where Aqib, train manager, was already present. The two accused went out into the gallery and talked to each other in a hushed voice for a while.

Zahid came back and locked the compartment from inside and began talking to the woman. “The AC [compartment] fare is too high,” he said. The woman, being penniless, begged him to allow her to complete her journey without paying additional money.

The accused slapped the victim across her face and extended death threats before subjecting her to sexual abuse. After he went out, accused Aqib and Zohaib, another ticket checker, raped her by taking turns. Later, security guards, including accused Hafeez, shot a video of the victim so he could blackmail or take monetary benefits from his bosses by using it.

It was only after a local daily published a report about the alleged sexual abuse that the police contacted the woman and lodged an FIR on her complaint.

In light of circumstantial, forensic and medical evidence, as well as statements of the witnesses, the investigating officer, Habibullah Khattak, said it has been proved that Zahid lured the woman to the AC compartment where he along with Aqib and Zohaib raped her one after another. Their DNA samples had also matched with those of the victim, confirming their involvement in the heinous crime. Suspect Amir also visited the compartment in the woman’s presence but his involvement in the crime was yet to be proved as his DNA samples had been sent to a forensic lab in Lahore for testing, the IO pointed out.

He said suspect Hafiz should be tried for hushing up the crime by not relaying the incident to the authorities concerned and making a video of the woman.