The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) decision to appoint Umar Sheikh as the Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) has been called into question time and again due to some irresponsible remarks made by the senior police officer.

His most recent comments in front of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights sparked controversy once more, where he claimed—without any proof—that the victim of the Motorway incident was travelling without her husband’s permission. Regardless of proof, this fact has no bearing in the case. It was not a factor that contributed to the incident. Its very mention has led many to think that the senior police officer thinks it does, and that is not an attitude that anyone can condone.

There is no doubt that the senior police officer is more than qualified for the position he was appointed to. Years of service, tests and overall performance would testify to this fact. He was not appointed without being totally qualified for his position. However, communication in this day and age is an important part of the job. Managing public expectations and perceptions, particularly in the aftermath of a horrifying incident such as the one under discussion, is equally important to keeping our citizens safe. After all, an important aspect of safety in society is the feeling of being protected; residents of the country need to feel they are safe in order to live the life they want without any fear.

But the comments made by the CCPO have called into question his suitability for the position. Each time he has spoken about the case, he has given off the perception that he blames the victim for what transpired. Every subsequent statement has only added to this impression, even though these should have been chances to change the earlier bad impressions. Mr Sheikh needs to handle the narrative better. As the head of the police in Lahore, he is in a unique position to win admiration by solving the case, he can still turn around the negative perceptions created by clearly and unequivocally establishing that the victim was blameless and the vicious perpetrators will be traced and given no chance to escape.

Victim blaming is an archaic idea that has no place in today’s society, but law enforcement in particular needs to steer clear from this idea, because of the impact it would have in citizens and how they see the police; as guardians or those that are ambivalent to the pain of victims.