Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar on Tuesday rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s allegations that women in custody are being mistreated or harassed, maintaining that the accusations are “fabricated.”
Addressing a press conference alongside Punjab Prisons IGP Mian Farooq Nazir and Lahore Investigation SSP Anoosh Masood Chaudhry in Lahore, he regretted that several social media accounts affiliated with the PTI were sharing old videos and pictures of women being tortured in custody and trying to suggest they had been recorded recently. He warned that accounts that had been sharing such fake information had been identified and legal action would be initiated against them.
Lamenting the “fabricated information” alleging the rape and torture of PTI women leaders and workers currently imprisoned or in police custody, he accused “social media influencers” of spreading lies about women released from detention showing wounds on their bodies. “The posts, pictures or videos posted by the social media influencers regarding women in the last few days has nothing to do with the May 9 incident,” he said, adding that the Punjab police were all set to initiate legal action.
Anwar also rubbished claims that the women in custody had not committed any wrongdoing, maintaining that there was video evidence proving their complicity in the May 9 riots. “Many of these people were recording and proudly uploading these videos on their social media accounts, which we have used to identify and apprehend them,” he said.
Discussing the condition of women prisoners in jails, the IGP clarified that there were around 150 cameras monitoring jail staff and prisoners at all times, adding no male staff had ever interrogated a woman. Masood, who was part of a two-member committee probing the PTI’s allegations that visited the detained women in jail, also rejected the impression that prisoners were being mistreated. Of the 15 women that had been arrested by Punjab Police in connection with the May 9 riots, she said 11 were imprisoned in Lahore, while two were detained in Rawalpindi.
“No male jail staff can enter the special women’s cell of the jails where women were kept,” she said, adding that women doctors, including gynecologists, were available to them at all times. She also lamented that the media was focused on the treatment of just a few women, stressing that all women were worthy of respect. Referring to her visit to Kot Lakhpat, she explained she had met all the detained women, including fashion designer Khadija Shah and PTI leader Dr. Yasmin Rashid.
Shah, she explained, had asked for medicine to treat her asthma, which had been provided, while another woman had been given medicine for a skin disease. Rashid, she said, had been placed on judicial remand and was now permitted to meet visitors once a week. “Unfortunately, we cannot provide these women with air conditioning, as this is a jail,” she said, saying everyone was equal under law and the detained PTI supporters and workers were being treated the same as everyone else.
PTI chief Imran Khan, in recent addresses to his supporters via video-link as well as various Twitter posts, has alleged that women in custody of Punjab Police are being mistreated or “raped.” He ramped up his allegations after Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah alleged in a late-night press conference that a phone call had been intercepted “proving” the PTI planned to “stage” a rape and use it against the government before international rights bodies.
On Tuesday, PTI leader Hammad Azhar—who has been evading arrest since the May 9 riots—reiterated Khan’s allegations, claiming that the ruling coalition as using women as a “weapon” against the party. “The arsenal has been manifold; blackmail, harassments, threats, illegal arrests and perhaps even more. But women have also stood up against these vile tactics and shown tremendous courage,” he wrote on Twitter.