After nearly a month’s chase, the main suspect of the Lahore-Sialkot motorway gangrape case, Abid Malhi, has been arrested by police. This fact has been confirmed by the Prime Minister’s special assistant Shahbaz Gill, who tweeted that the suspect will be punished according to law. Abid was arrested from Faisalabad and is being shifted to Lahore.

This is welcome news. It was unacceptable that the main suspects of this heinous crime, which had shaken the country to its core, were still at large. The inability of the police to arrest the suspects had drawn further attention to the previous criminal records of the suspects and were a bitter reflection of the justice system, which evidently shows that crimes against women are not taken seriously if the culprits are released so easily.

Yet, while this is a victory, with President Arif Alvi terming the arrest “a matter of national relief”, it is a very small one. While we hope that the victim in this case receives justice, there are no silver linings to be found in this extremely horrific case. Now that the suspects have been arrested, the law must take its course. Yet the court proceedings, and government action when it comes to women’s safety, has to be centred around the discourse of prevention of crimes, rather than that of retribution. Yes, the culprits, in this case, must be harshly punished, and conviction against sex crime culprits should be more vigorously sought, yet this should not let us allow the state an easy way out by merely allowing the death penalty without taking any additional action. The government must make some serious and difficult reforms to make public spaces safer for women. This means encouraging and normalising participation of women in public spaces—if a woman stepping out of the house is still an anomaly, then women who venture outside the house will continue to be victimised.