KARACHI: A Pakistani police officer who is being applauded for arresting a rape suspect, in an incident that sent shockwaves through the country earlier this month, is crediting his wife and daughter for being the “real heroes” in the case after they risked their lives to help him nab the criminal.
“They are my real heroes: my daughter and my wife. They did a noble job,” the officer, Mohammed Bux Buriro, told Arab News in an interview earlier this week.
The gruesome assault took place in the remote district of Kashmore, in the southern Sindh province of Pakistan, when a woman from Karachi — some 600 kilometers away — arrived with her four-year-old daughter to take on a job offer by the alleged rapist, Rafiq Malak.
Malak, who was supposed to help her, locked and reportedly raped both of them for several days and only allowed the mother to leave after making her promise that she would bring him another woman. The four-year-old was held hostage while he awaited her mother’s return.
Once free, the woman reported the crime. Buriro said he was sitting at his police station in Kashmore when she arrived “in tears” and narrated her ordeal.
Without hesitation, the assistant sub-inspector set out to find the woman’s child, even though it required putting at stake the lives of his own wife and daughter.
“I told my wife to trap him. I said to her, ‘If I’m home, I will guide you; otherwise keep talking to him,’” he said, as they established contact with the rapist.
The move was dangerous, also because the ultra-conservative tribal region bordering Balochistan and Punjab is notorious for honor killings.
“Our district has no policewomen, but even if there was one, I would not have put her life in danger,” Buriro said, explaining that a woman can be killed for merely speaking to a man who is not her family member.
“Ours is a dirty society in which a woman is viewed with dirty eyes; she is seen as inferior,” he said.
For two days, Buriro’s wife engaged Malak by talking to him on the phone but could not catch him.
On the third day, on Nov. 9, their teenage daughter, Reshma, lured Malak into a trap by acting as bait.
Reshma told the rapist that she would travel from Karachi and later meet him at a park in Kashmore.
With Reshma in conversation with Malak, Buriro kept watch, ready to act.
He told Reshma that if Malak tried to flee, she must try and stop him.
“When he asked her to remove her hijab, she grabbed his neck,” Buriro said.
His team members were at the scene and immediately arrested the man.
During the interrogation, the rapist disclosed the details of the location where he had hidden the child.
But when the officers began searching for the girl in different parts of the house, they could not trace her.
They finally managed to find her after Buriro saw her moving underneath a dirty cloth. He burst into tears when he realized it was the girl.
“It was so difficult to see the child in that condition; my whole team was crying,” he said.
After the rescue operation, Buriro received much praise, from top police officials and the public to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“I was very happy that the prime minister called on a small employee such as myself and gave me that importance,” Buriro said, recalling his conversation with Khan.
“He stood up and saluted me with both hands.”
A few days after his conversation with Buriro, Khan announced that his government would be introducing a new “stringent” and “holistic” anti-rape law to address “loopholes” in existing legislation.
“Spoke to ASI Buriro and lauded his & his daughter’s exemplary initiative & courage in arrest of Kashmore rapist,” Khan tweeted on Nov. 14.
“The nation is proud of them & he has given positive uplift to image of police. Next week we are bringing a stringent, holistic anti-rape Ordinance closing all loopholes.”
Pakistan already has severe sentences for rape — 10-25 years in prison for rape and life imprisonment or death for gang rape — though they are seldom implemented.
The latest incident, however, was condemned by the UN as well, with officials from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Islamabad expressing “deep shock” over the crime.
“UNICEF strongly condemns this vicious attack on a child,” Aida Girma, UNICEF’s representative in Pakistan, said in a statement released a week ago.
“While it is encouraging to see that the police managed to rescue the child and arrest one of the alleged perpetrators, greater efforts must be made to develop mechanisms that help prevent sexual abuse against children.”
The UN agency reiterated that “every child has the right to be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse.”
“UNICEF will continue to work with federal, provincial authorities and communities to put in place effective, preventive mechanisms and improve the safety of children,” the statement said.
In September, the gang rape of a woman in front of her minor children and along one of the country’s most secure highways provoked cries of outrage as activists and citizens demanded that the government do more to stem violence against women, including ensuring perpetrators are held accountable in a country that has seen over 3,500 rapes this year alone.