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Health dept drops Landhi gang-rape probe

KARACHI, Oct 3: The Sindh health ministry has dropped the inquiry into the alleged gang rape of a young woman on the premises of a government hospital in Landhi on the grounds that police could investigate the case in a better way.

A senior official said the ministry took the decision after observing that at a time when the police were engaged in investigations considering almost every angle, a parallel inquiry by the health authorities could damage the probe’s scope and cause misunderstandings.

“The police have arrested a couple of accused and submitted a chalan [charge-sheet] before the magistrate,” Syed Sardar Ahmed, Sindh Health Minister, told Dawn. “So it has become a court matter now and we don’t want to interfere in the whole process by involving ourselves in the investigation. That’s the only reason we withdrew the inquiry.”

Mr Ahmed’s comments came almost four weeks after the health ministry formed an inquiry committee to look into negligence on the part of the government hospital’s management, which led to the alleged gang rape. The report compiled by the Landhi police says that the 23-year-old victim, who claimed to be a nurse at the Civil Hospital Karachi, went to the Landhi Medical Complex on September 6 to have the dressing changed on a skin problem.

The dressing was being changed by a ward boy, Nabeel, when his colleagues Asad, Aftab, Arshad, Junaid and Rashid entered the room and allegedly subjected the woman to gang rape. Reportedly, Nabeel tried but failed to prevent the assault and did not take part in the offence.

The case (FIR No 160/07) was registered under Section 376-ii of the Pakistan Penal Code, entitled ‘Punishment for Rape’ and substituted by the Protection of Women Act VI, 2006. The police later arrested Aftab and Junaid while the other three are still at large. However, things turned mysterious when the Civil Hospital denied the victim’s claim of being associated with the health facility.

Conflicting statements

Syed Sardar Ahmed also said that the victim had not yet convinced the police and kept making contradictory statements, causing the police to doubt the veracity of her assertions.

“However, a medical examination conducted at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre confirms the assault on the woman and the police also have an eyewitness,” said Mr Ahmed. “We are not in a position to comment. We should wait for the police investigation to unravel the mystery.”

The police have made little progress in the case.

“We were a bit sceptical because the victim failed to convince the investigation team and kept changing her statements,” said Aziz Memon, the Station House Officer of the Landhi police station.

He said he had doubts about the mental health of the victim, but hastened to add that the chemical examination reports of the arrested accused would help determine whether or not they committed the crime. Mr Memon says he has reasons to believe the accused and the victim knew each other.

“We believe that all the five accused knew the victim very well, and vice versa,” he said. “We are following the case closely and will soon arrest the other three accused nominated by the victim.”

Source: Dawn

Date:10/4/2007

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