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The Motorway Incident in Pakistan: A dark episode


The Motorway incident was a stark reminder of the deeply entrenched issue of gender-based violence in Pakistan .It was a harrowing event that shook the nation and brought attention to critical issues surrounding safety, gender dynamics, and the role of media in shaping public discourse. It laid bare the vulnerability of women in public spaces, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive reform and awareness.


The victim of this traumatic incident was a Pakistani-French woman traveling with her two children. On the night of 7 September 2020, a woman was gang-raped and robbed in front of her children on the Lahore-Sialkot motorway in Pakistan after her car broke down. While she waited for the police to arrive, two men approached her and held her at gunpoint, raped her, and robbed her of money and jewellery. What made this case even more disturbing was the victim-blaming that ensued in its aftermath. Umer Sheikh, the highest-ranking police official in Lahore, shockingly implied that the victim bore some responsibility for the incident. He questioned her choice of a less-traveled road and suggested she should have checked her fuel levels before embarking on her journey. He also commented on her belief that Pakistan was as safe as France, further compounding the victim-blaming narrative. These remarks, instead of offering support to the survivor, ignited a nationwide uproar. People from all walks of life united in condemnation of the victim-blaming and demanded justice for the survivor. His interview, was widely shared on social media with #RemoveCCPOLahore becoming one of the top trends on twitter.




The media, as the primary source of information for the public, played a pivotal role in covering the incident. Journalists and news outlets provided extensive coverage of the case, ensuring that the public was informed about the crime. The media played an indispensable role in giving voice to the victims of gender-based violence. By sharing their stories and experiences, survivors and victims found solace, breaking the silence and stigma surrounding such incidents. Pakistani celebrities of the entertainment industry came out on the roads of Karachi to protest at the Press Club, for the recent motorway incident which has shocked and frightened everyone, from women to children, no one feels safe in Pakistan. Celebrities including, Ayesha Omar, Mansha Pasha, Mahira Khan, Ali Rehman, Yasir Hussain and many others raised their voice. Everyone was holding placards to demand justice and safety for others.





The motorway rape case left an indelible mark on Pakistan's collective consciousness. It sparked a nationwide dialogue about the treatment of survivors, the importance of preserving their dignity, and the urgency of enacting stricter laws to punish sexual offenders. In response to this watershed moment, Pakistan enacted new rape laws, aimed at expediting trials and imposing more severe penalties for such crimes. The sentencing of Abid Malhi and Shafqat Ali (the rapists) to death for their grave offenses is a beacon of hope in the ongoing battle against gender-based violence in Pakistan. It underscores the significance of rejecting victim-blaming and working toward a society in which survivors receive unwavering support, and justice is served swiftly. While there is still much work to be done, this case serves as a testament to the possibility of a safer, more just Pakistan for women.


The Motorway Incident should act as a driving force for sustained efforts to combat gender-based violence, advance gender equality, and create a Pakistan where everyone, regardless of gender, feels safe and respected in public spaces. Both the media and the people hold the power to foster societal change and demand accountability to prevent the recurrence of such tragic incidents.







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Neiha A. Siddiqui
Neiha A. Siddiqui
Dec 01, 2023

This unfortunate occurrence should serve as a catalyst for long-term social endeavors. The media and the public have the combined capacity to effect change, demand responsibility, and seek to prevent such atrocities from happening again. While traumatic, the Motorway Incident has the potential to move Pakistan towards a future in which everyone, regardless of gender, feels secure and respected in public settings. Where and how does this end and what sort of steps does one even take in a system so corrupt , to perhaps heal a little

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This is a profoundly moving and important blog post. Reading about the Motorway incident in Pakistan was both heartbreaking and eye-opening. It's distressing to learn about such a heinous crime and the subsequent victim-blaming, especially from those in positions of authority. Yet, the way you've detailed the incident and its aftermath is impactful and necessary. It's commendable how you've highlighted the collective response of the public and the media, showing the power of unified voices in demanding justice and change.

What struck me most was the way you connected the incident with the larger issues of gender-based violence and societal attitudes towards women in public spaces. The involvement of celebrities and activists in protests and their role in amplifying the…

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Fiza Jaffer
Fiza Jaffer
Dec 01, 2023

Gender-based violence is a a huge issue in Pakistan and needs to be dealt with urgently. Media, as you’ve pointed out, plays a huge role in shaping the narratives. It was through media that this incident spread like wildfire all over Pakistan. When journalists and celebrities spoke up in favor of the survivor, the masses also demanded justice. However, media has also played a huge role in creating the gender stereotypes that continue to negatively affect women in our society. When the police officer asked what the victim was doing out so late at night, it reflected the deep rooted misogyny that supports the culture of victim blaming. But I do believe that media has great power and influence, and…

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Mahnoor Zafar
Mahnoor Zafar
Dec 01, 2023

This post got me wondering why people tend to victim blame. Is it because a lack of empathy and understanding? I feel as if people fail to put themselves in the shoes of the victim because they choose to believe that bad things can to those around them but not to themselves. Is it because their is a lack of awareness in society about the dynamics of abuse, trauma and other kinds of victimisations? Is it a way to avoid responsibility? Moreover this post has gotten me wondering why the media fails to do something about this. I think media makers lack the ability to present diverse perspectives and often face constraints in regards to storylines. I think they also…


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Seeing how you raised concern on two very prevalent issues in society that of honour killings and rape under the context of media's role in both incident of motorway and Qandeel Baloch shows how women have and are still being subject to injustice but are not silent. Your blog quite effectively puts together the frustration, hopelessness that one feels when reading news outlets constantly putting forward narratives of victim-blaming for gender-based violence which should be ethically managed, in order for us to have more engagement by the larger population on matter such as removing the CPOOfficer from his position, there does need to be responsible news delivery.


Despite these narratives surrounding it, the incident was an eye-opener as well as…

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