LAHORE: Abid Malhi — the prime suspect in the motorway gang-rape case – was Monday arrested from Manga Mandi after 33 days of manhunt by the Punjab police, Counter Terrorism Department and Special Branch. DIG Investigation Lahore Shahzada Sultan, who also heads the JIT, confirmed the arrest.
The Punjab government spokesman Dr. Shahbaz Gill also confirmed Malhi’s arrest on twitter. He said Malhi was arrested from Faisalabad. The police had been following him, his relatives and any other person he had been in contact with. Plain-clothes cops had been deployed for reconnaissance of his relatives. Their communication was also being monitored.
Investigators spotted two phone numbers. Police doubted the suspect was in contact for help, money and food. They followed these numbers and started waiting for the suspect to appear. As the suspect showed up, the police nabbed him. Investigators are busy investigatinghim. He will be produced before the court on Tuesday (today) for physical remand.
His accomplice, Shafqat Ali, is already on judicial remand. After going into hiding, Abid Malhi evaded multiple police bids due to the police’s ill-planning. In the first raid, he was at his house in Qila Sattar Shah, Sheikhupura, and fled after seeing the police. Reportedly, the team that tracked him had reached earlier than the reinforcements.
The second arrest bid was foiled in Kasur when only four policemen reached to arrest him. Later, a heavy contingent of police kept on conducting search operations for him. In Nankana Sahib, the police reached very late despite being informed in time. A special police team headed by DIG Investigation Lahore Shahzada Sultan had at least 28 teams of CIA, Investigations Wing, Special Branch and CTD to arrest him with all the resources of Punjab Police on his disposal. Frustrated by the repeated failures to arrest the suspect, IGP Inam Ghani engaged the police of the whole province. He deployed each member of the district security branch to search for him at his every possible hideout throughout Punjab. He also formed a Rapid Response Force, with each team in a district, with the sole purpose of rushing to arrest on information of his presence.
Some sources also revealed that police investigators throughout the province had literally begged their sources in underground criminal circles to help them find out Malhi. Rather than admitting their utter failure to nab the suspect at the earliest, the Punjab government and the police took the plea that they failed to arrest him because he was a petty criminal.
Abid Malhi, along with his accomplice Shafqat Ali, had sexually assaulted a woman in front of her three children during a robbery bid on the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway near Karol Ghati forest after her car ran out of fuel. She had been travelling from DHA Lahore to Gujranwala after seeing her parents, as her husband had compelled her not to stay at her relatives’ place. She had made a distress call to the National Highways and Motorway Police (NH&MP) narrating her ordeal. However, no one reached for her help but the suspected rapist-cum-robbers.
Shafqat Ali had told investigators that they were habitual criminals and had gathered to commit a robbery in the Karol forest when they observed the car parked on the motorway. Malhi was carrying a gun. When the woman refused to open the door despite seeing the gun, Malhi broke down the glass using a stone and made her child hostage to force her down the main road. He assaulted her first on gunpoint and later Shafqat did the same. He also revealed that they were hiding nearby when the Dolphin Squad team had reached the spot.