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Pakistani police launch safety drive for minorities

Motorway police hold seminars with church groups days after gang rape on major highway

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Pakistani police launch safety drive for minorities

Archbishop Sebastian Shaw garlands motorway police inspector Muhammad Saleem on Sept. 21 at St. Anthony’s High School in Lahore. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry/UCA News)

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Motorway police in Punjab have linked up with Lahore Archdiocese to launch an awareness program for the safety of minority travelers.

“Around 30,000 people die in road accidents in Pakistan every year. We are trying to protect our community and save others. But the government should ensure the security of travelers in emergency situations. Human dignity comes first,” Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore told UCA News.

The prelate was speaking on Sept. 21 at a Peace Day seminar where a delegation of motorway police shared road safety precautions with more than 200 people at St. Anthony’s High School in Lahore.

“More than 80 percent of road accidents are related to youngsters between 18 and 25 years. The pulpit can help spread the message,” said Muhammad Saleem, inspector of one of Pakistan’s most secure highways.

He joined clerics and priests in planting an olive tree and releasing pigeons following a recitation from the Quran and the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.

Archbishop Shaw also led a group of priests to attend a seminar at the National Highways and Motorway Police Training College in Sheikhupura, Punjab province, last week. Leaders of the Sikh community attended the event. Similar programs will be held in Catholic-run schools.

Church groups also joined nationwide protests following the gang rape of a 30-year-old woman in front of her two children on a motorway after her car ran out of petrol on Sept. 9. Punjab police are searching for the key suspect.

Human rights groups say women from minority communities often face double discrimination and disempowerment in Pakistan — from majority Muslims and from a patriarchal society. Last year Punjab police registered 3,881 cases of rape and 190 cases of gang rape in the province.

According to Islamabad police, the number of cases of violence against women in the federal capital increased from 79 in 2018 to 109 in 2019. These included 35 cases of rape.

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