By Associated Press - Sunday, September 13, 2020

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) - Pakistani police on Sunday said they have arrested one of two suspects in the rape of a woman who was dragged from her car and attacked in front of her children after her car broke down on a desolate highway in central Punjab province.

The police said the woman had locked her car doors when she ran out of fuel. She called highway police for help. As she waited, police said two attackers broke her car window, dragged her outside and raped her in front of her terrified children. The suspects are also accused of stealing cash and jewelry from the woman before fleeing.

Chief of the criminal investigation wing of the Punjab police, Atif Nazeer, said the arrest of one of the men was made after security tracked phone records and collected forensic evidence from the scene near the eastern city of Lahore.

Nazeer said the suspect denies any involvement in the rape, which took place Wednesday. Some local media are reporting that the suspect turned himself over to police to plead his innocence.

The assault drew widespread condemnation on social media, with protesters demanding the perpetrators be publicly hanged.

Recently appointed Lahore police chief Umar Sheikh has been criticized for apparently blaming the victim for traveling alone with her two children after midnight without checking whether her car had enough fuel. Women’s rights activists have urged the government to fire Sheikh over his remarks.

Gang rape is rare in Pakistan, although sexual harassment and violence against women is commonly reported. Nearly 1,000 women are killed in Pakistan each year in so-called “honor killings” for allegedly violating conservative norms on love and marriage.

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