The harrowing incident of gang rape of a teenage girl at a local motel sent the city into a state of shock last week, grabbing headlines at all media platforms and raising many an important question yet to be answered.
Whereas the physical remand of the alleged eight men had been extended by a judicial magistrate, at the time of filing of this story, the incident also put in question the protocols given to the visitors at small-time hotels, motels and guest houses. The role of the staff at these facilities can also not be overlooked.
TNS asked Aslam (real name changed), the grandson of the said motel’s owner, who was apparently present at the reception when Adnan Sanaullah (alleged gang-rape perpetrator) and his companions checked in, as to why the room was so easily provided to the young men who are residents of Lahore. He could not produce any convincing argument. Under the law, those who have the identity card of Lahore cannot check in at the city’s motels.
About not installing security cameras at the facility, he said that Adnan was a frequenter and, hence, was known to the manager. “The CCTV cameras have a negative impact on the business,” he added. “They put off the visitors.”
A low-cadre police official, who happens to be part of the team investigating the incident, says on condition of anonymity that the influential people can get away with anything. “Actually, Adnan is an acquaintance of a provincial minister. No wonder he and his friends were provided with the room without having to show their CNICs. Their names are not mentioned in the records book. This is a clear violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).”
What is, perhaps, most worrying is the involvement of the police. It is alleged that as many as 1,500 small hotels, guest houses and motels are ‘patronised’ by the Punjab Police. The owners of these facilities pay a certain monthly amount to the SHOs and beat officers. As a result, the administrations of these places are not forced to give the names of the visitors in the record list. This is their way of evading the general sales tax (GST).
Dr Haider Ashraf, DIG Operations, Lahore claims the police department took strict action against such elements. “Many small hotels, motels and guest houses are dens for prostitution,” he declares. “It is the duty of the administrations [of these facilities] to submit the lists of visitors on a daily bases with the concerned police stations. If they violate the law, they stand to face legal consequences.”
Ashraf also says that a case was registered against the rapists at the Race Course Police Station on the complaint of the victim’s mother, under Sections 376(ii) and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Kidnapping charges are also included in the case.
“The Punjab Police arrested all the rapists in no time,” he adds. “It did not matter whether they had influential backgrounds or not.”
Ashraf urges the police to check the records of the guest houses and motels properly in order to implement the National Action Plan (NAP) for better results.
Interestingly, there are no reports of any action taken against the owners of the motels and guest houses who violated the SOPs.
On the other hand, Rana Naveed Ahmed, Chairman, Hotels Association Lahore, is of the view that records of visitors are submitted on daily basis with the concerned police stations. “Unfortunately, the guest houses are also classified as hotels by the government.
“There are a thousand guest houses that don’t meet the criteria. For that, they need to have installed security cameras, elevators and a separate room for visitors’ guests. You can find such places at the Railway Station, Naulakha, Data Darbar, Samanabad, Allama Iqbal Town, Minar-e-Pakistan, Chauburji, Green Town, etc.”
However, Ahmed declares that the genuine hotel owners are not involved in the heinous crime. “They only provide rooms to the people who come from outside of Lahore for tourism or official purposes.
“Occupancy in hotels and motels is far less compared to the guest houses,” he continues. “The guest houses do not need to even advertise their places.”
Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhary, President, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Punjab says, “No guest house can run without the assistance of the police. And, the police is empowered every time the PML-N comes into power. This particular case was noticed by the Chief Minister Punjab because it had been highlighted by the media, otherwise there are scores of case that go unreported and unnoticed.”
Chaudhary says that usually people don’t speak up in incidents of rape. The victims are silenced because of societal pressure or because the police is protecting the culprits.”