- Policemen in Kasur gun down three protesters, injure six others as public anger boils over at police’s inaction against increasing number of rape-cum-murder of children in the district
- CJP takes notice of eight-year-old Zainab’s rape and murder, orders inquiry report within 24 hours as Punjab CM suspends Kasur DPO, forms JIT
- Army chief orders agencies to cooperate with police in tracing culprits
- Zainab’s rape and murder is 12th such case to occur within a two-kilometre radius in Kasur in last year
KASUR/LAHORE: Three people were killed and six others were injured by police firing during furious protests in Kasur on Wednesday against the gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, prompting the chief justice of the Supreme Court to take notice of the incident that has outraged citizens across the country.
The city’s business community, legal fraternity and activists of religious parties announced a shutter-down strike in the city on Wednesday to protest against the police’s failure to arrest the culprits responsible for the abduction, rape and murder of Zainab, 8, whose dead body was found from a garbage heap on Tuesday, five days after she went missing.
The protesters blocked different roads, burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the police. They also set a passenger bus on fire and vandalised several vehicles. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters gathered at Kutchehry Chowk of the city and tried to march towards the offices of the deputy commissioner and district’s police chief.
The police opened fire on the mobs in a bid to disperse them, killing three persons – two of them identified as Muhammad Ali and Munib Islam – while six others identified as Umair, Afzal, Asad, Yasir, Shahbaz and Osama were seriously injured. The injured were shifted to the district hospital where doctors referred them to Lahore for better treatment.
According to officials, two policemen deputed with the deputy commissioner and two officials of civil defence have been taken into custody for opening direct fire on the protesters despite orders to shoot in the air.
After the funeral prayers for Zainab were offered at College Ground under the leadership of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) Chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri, the protesting citizens placed the dead bodies of Muhammad Ali and Munib Islam at Steel Bagh Chowk and resumed their protest. They refused to hold dialogue with Kasur District Police Officer Zulfiqar Hameed and the protest was underway by the time this report was filed.
Later in the evening, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif made DPO Hameed an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and formed a joint investigation team headed by Additional IG Abu Bakar Khuda Bakhsh to submit an inquiry report within 24 hours.
The government has ordered DPO Khanewal Zahid Murawat to assume charge in Kasur in Hameed’s place.
ZAINAB NOT THE FIRST VICTIM:
The brutal murder of Zainab incited anger among residents of Kasur and social media users across Pakistan as it is the 12th such case to occur within a two kilometre radius in the city in the last year.
Kasur had also made local and international headlines in 2015 when a gang of pedophiles running a child sex ring was busted in the city.
The gang had allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted at least 280 children in the area, had blackmailed the families of the victims since 2009, and even sold video clips and images of the assault online.
Zainab was last known to have attended a tuition centre near her house in the Road Kot area last Thursday on Jan 4, after which she was allegedly abducted. Zainab’s parents had gone to perform Umrah, according to the family.
Her panicked family received footage showing her with a stranger near Peerowala Road, a video which has since gone viral on social media.
On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a heap of trash near Shahbaz Khan Road in the city.
Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days ago, and sent her body to the District Headquarters Hospital for an autopsy where a number of people had gathered.
Police had reluctantly handed her body over to the family fearing an outrage over the incident.
An FIR [First Information Report] was registered against the disappearance of the girl on Jan 5 by the victim’s paternal uncle. Murder charges were added to the FIR on Jan 9, after the victim’s body was recovered.
PARENTS DEMAND JUSTICE:
Talking to reporters outside Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport upon arrival from Saudi Arabia, Zainab’s mother told reporters: “I have nothing to say, I just want justice for my daughter.”
Zainab’s father claimed that police “did not cooperate” with them.
“It is our friends that have stood by us. The culprits have even been identified but the police have not made any progress,” he claimed.
“We will not bury her until we get justice,” he asserted. “We are now afraid of letting our children leave the home. How was our child kidnapped from a busy market?” he asked.
INVESTIGATIONS CONTINUE BUT NO ARREST MADE:
Meanwhile, police sources told Pakistan Today that DNA samples from the victim’s body have been dispatched for forensic testing. Police have dubbed the murder a serial killing, but are not ruling out rape. Further information will be available once an autopsy report is issued.
Regional Police Officer (RPO) Zulfikar Muhammad confirmed that the girl was strangled to death. He told the media that the Punjab CM has directed the forensic lab to expedite the process for Zainab’s autopsy.
“Naturally, there is also a certain amount of time that the processing will take; there is a certain amount of time that the lab takes,” he said. It generally takes 24-48 hours for an autopsy to take place and a report to be issued.
Police sources said that they had released the sketch of one suspect who was identified through CCTV footage.
They said that Zainab is the eighth victim in Kasur who has been murdered after rape. The same sample was found from the DNAs of all the victims.
Within the premises of Saddar police station, including the current victim, 12 girls have been raped and thrown into the garbage heap, out of which 11 died. While the police registered reports of the cases, they did not take any pragmatic measures to arrest the culprit.
LHC CJ TAKES NOTICE, CM ORDERS IMMEDIATE ARREST OF CULPRITS:
Taking suo moto notice of the incident, SC Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar ordered the Punjab IGP to submit a report within 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah has sought report on the incident from the Kasur district and sessions judge.
In a tweet, the Pakistani military’s media wing announced that Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had directed the army to extend full cooperation to law enforcement agencies in the investigation into the incident.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah appealed for calm, saying the provincial government had “taken notice of the case”.
“People need to keep their emotions in check and not aggravate the situation,” he said.
The law minister appeared optimistic that the perpetrators would be arrested within the next eight to 10 hours, and said that the culprit seemed to have been an acquaintance of the family.
He added that a child’s safety is its parents’ responsibility.
Shaken by the incident, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan took to Twitter to condemn the murder, saying: “The condemnable and horrific rape and murder of little Zainab exposes once again how vulnerable our children are in our society. This is not the first time such horrific acts have happened. We have to act swiftly to punish the guilty and ensure that our children are better protected.”
The condemnable & horrific rape & murder of little Zainab exposes once again how vulnerable our children are in our society. This is not the first time such horrific acts have happened. We have to act swiftly to punish the guilty & ensure that our children are better protected. pic.twitter.com/9f7OM3hYT1
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 10, 2018
In the aftermath of the horrific incident, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari issued a statement, saying: “Ten incidents of minors’ rape and murders had been reported in Kasur and eleven in Sheikhupura alone last year. It seems some parts of Punjab have been turned into hell for the children, especially the girls but Sharif brothers appear to have abandoned their duty as rulers.”
Bilawal said that gory incident of children rapes and murders have shaken the society and any tolerance by Sharif brothers to perpetrators of these crimes won’t be accepted.
The PPP chairman demanded that rapists and killers of every innocent child should be brought to book and none of them should go scot-free. His sister, Assefa Bhutto Zardari, too condemned the incident and expressed sympathy with the grieving family.
#JusticeForZainab she was only 7 years old !!! Zainab was an innocent child and she was horrifically tortured & murdered, my heart breaks for her family.
May Allah give them strength #UniteAgainstChildAbuse
— Aseefa B Zardari (@AseefaBZ) January 10, 2018
PML-N leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz reacted strongly to the incident. She tweeted as saying that the perpetrators should be given a harsh sentence so that no one would dare do this again.
گرفتار کر کے ایسی سزا دیں کہ پھر کسی کو ہماری بیٹیوں اور بچوں کی بے حرمتی کی ہمت نہ ہو۔ https://t.co/ixMGDmbz3q
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) January 10, 2018
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani suggested introducing appropriate legislation and stricter legal implementation in order to prevent such incidents in the future.
“All institutions must work together, and implementation of laws must be strengthened,” he said.
Rabbani said that when the Kasur child abuse scandal surfaced in 2015, he had raised concerns that the outrage would die down within a few days, which is why it is necessary that the government take long-term measures to ensure the safety of children.
“Institutions and the government must work together on operational procedures for such incidents,” he said, adding that laws and a permanent institution must be introduced to deal with these crimes.
Laws for the protection of children must be made in line with international laws, he said. Existing laws that deal with crimes against women could possibly be expanded to include crimes against children, he suggested.
Laws tackling crimes against children must tackle brutality, child smuggling and different kinds of abuse, including sexual abuse, he recommended, adding that stronger legal implementation and punishment of criminals is necessary to avoid such incidents from occurring.
Senate Committee on Interior Chairman Rehman Malik called the incident unforgivable and ordered that the Punjab police submit a report on the matter within the next five days.
Malik also said that the Inspector General of Punjab should personally investigate the matter and treat it as a challenge.
The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl presented adjournment motions in the Senate and the National Assembly to discuss the failure of the government and local law enforcers to recover Zainab.
“The tragedy happened because the girl was not recovered in time,” the adjournment motion claimed. “This is not the first time such an incident has taken place in Kasur.”
PTI leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed said the culprits in such cases “should be found and hanged” so that such incidents don’t occur again.
PTI’s chief whip Shireen Mazari at a press conference in Islamabad raised questions over the conduct of police in the city. “Where was the police when the girl went missing?” she asked.