Outcry on Twitter over gang rape in Pakistan | Follow the Hashtag | DW | 28.12.2015
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Outcry on Twitter over gang rape in Pakistan

Rape cases are hardly ever reported in Pakistan and it's even rarer if high profile officials are arrested. Yet after a 15-year-old girl was raped in Lahore, Pakistanis declared on social media: #PunjabUnsafeForChildren.

A prominent Lahore politician, Mian Adnan Sanaullah, was arrested on Sunday night, following reports that he was involved in the gang-rape of a 15-year-old school girl in the early hours of December 26.

The girl and her mother, whose identity was revealed through local media outlets, spoke to the press while covering their faces. According to the 8th-grade student, she was abducted in front of her house and taken to a hotel where she was drugged, after which she remembers very little.

"The girl was drugged and later six to eight men gang-raped her," police told Pakistani media. The men then allegedly messaged her family, who picked her up and took her to hospital. The news broke while she was still hospitalized, as tweeted here by Jasmeen Manzoor, an anchor for Pakistan's News One:

Medical reports which were later shown on Pakistani television confirmed that the girl had been gang-raped. All that was now needed was a DNA match from the suspects.

The police arrested eight suspects in connection to the case. Sanaullah, the main suspect, is the leader of Pakistan's ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) youth wing and is said to have close ties to Pakistan's Minister of Sports and Education.

The government of Punjab province tweeted the news of the arrest and promised that forensic results would be available within 48 hours.

"The culprits, involved in [the] rape case of a girl, have been presented before court. The court has given a three day physical remand," the government's Twitter account continued to report. Shehbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab, also took to Twitter and assured users that those responsible would be brought to justice.

A handful of Twitter users congratulated Sharif and the authorities on the arrest. Many people however criticized the government for shielding those within their circle or asked about similar cases where the culprits had not been brought to justice.

The news about the rape was reported widely in the local media and outraged Pakistan's Twitter community, who insisted justice should be done.

The lack of a public outcry outside the media and social media forums highlights the uniqueness of a case in which the victim and her family chose to go public and name a prominent suspect.

Rape remains sorely underreported in the country and while the DNA matching of the victim and the suspects is now mandatory, this was the first case in which it was actually conducted.

A recent report by War Against Rape, a Karachi-based rights group, showed that the number of rape cases reported in Pakistan nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014. However, the report also found that less than a third of the cases recorded in Karachi hospitals were eventually processed by the police.

One hashtag which emerged from the news was #PunjabUnsafeForChildren. Besides the outcry over the rape, it quickly evolved into a harsh criticism on the PML-N government.

The politics behind the matter also became apparent when several supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan slammed the ruling party for its inability to address crime within its ranks.

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