Govt groping in dark in Zainab case as protests rage in Kasur

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  • Punjab govt deploys Rangers in city after violent protesters storm and vandalise MPA’s camp office, govt hospital

  • Punjab CM announces Rs 10m reward for information leading to murderer’s arrest, Rs 3m for families of two men killed by police

  • Punjab IG submits report to CJP, says postmortem report suggests minor girl was raped, sodomised and strangled to death

KASUR/LAHORE: The Punjab government deployed the paramilitary Rangers in Kasur on Thursday to restore order, as violent clashes continued between enraged protesters and the police in the city throughout the day over the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, and the killing of two protesters by police during the protest a day earlier.

Police and intelligence agencies have so far remained unable to trace the culprit – said to be a serial killer – despite Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s claim that the government will arrest the psychopath within 24 hours.

Ostensibly embarrassed by its failure, the Punjab government has now announced a reward of Rs 10 million for information leading to the capture of the murderer of Zainab Ameen. It was also announced that the families of the two people who were killed by police firing on Wednesday would be given Rs3 million each. One member of both the families will also get a job, said the provincial government.

The minor girl, a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur, had gone missing on January 4 when she was on her way to her aunt’s house with her little cousin. Her body was found in a garbage pile near Kashmir Chowk five days later.

VIOLENT PROTESTS CONTINUE:

As protests re-erupted in the city on Thursday, the house of ruling party lawmaker Naeem Safdar was ransacked by a furious mob, which burnt furniture and cars in rage. Police resorted to tear gas shelling and use of water cannon to disperse the protesters but failed to do so.

Police also failed to stop the protesters from ransacking the local government hospital.

Residents continued to protest at various locations across the city, including Kali Pul Chowk, whereas the Ferozepur Road, linking Kasur to nearby towns and cities, remained blocked by the time this report was made. Moreover, protest demonstrations against the incident were taken out across the country, from Peshawar to Karachi.

Markets in Kasur remained closed in protest against the incident. Similarly, sporadic demonstrations were held outside the District Headquarters Hospital where protesters ransacked the premises, which was left devoid of equipment as well as security and medical staff.

The camp office of MPA Naeem Safdar that was stormed by protesters.

The Punjab Bar Council had also announced a complete boycott of courts on Thursday to press for the immediate arrest of the killer.

POLICE FIRING VICTIMS BURIED:

Meanwhile, the funeral of the two protesters killed by the police firing, Shoaib and Mohammad Ali, was held in the city’s college ground.

The funeral prayers, attended by a large number of locals, traders and political leaders, were led by the fiery leader of the religio-political outfit Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah (TLYR), Khadim Hussain Rizvi.

Also, two policemen and as many civil defence officials have been taken into custody for opening fire on the protesters while murder charges have been included in two FIRs registered against 16 unidentified policemen on the complaints of the deceased’s brothers.

A complete shutter-down strike was observed in the city.

POLICE SUBMIT REPORT IN SC:

In Islamabad, Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan submitted his report to the Supreme Court on the rape and murder of Zainab. Chief Justice of Pakistan had taken suo moto of the case on Wednesday and directed police to submit a report in 24 hours.

The IGP submitted that two suspects were being questioned about the incident.

The report said that geofencing data from the area was acquired and all resources are being employed to catch the culprit.

A post-mortem examination of the victim suggested that she was raped, sodomised and strangled to death. DNA samples collected from her body have been sent to a lab in Lahore for forensic testing ─ a process that can take up to three months.

The victim’s family yesterday accused the police of being un-cooperative when they were alerted that Zainab had gone missing.

During the hearing of the Al Razi Medical College, Peshawar case, the chief justice expressing condolences over the brutal rape and murder of Zainab, remarked that the head of the entire nation hangs in shame over the heinous incident, which is a matter of embarrassment for the country.

CM VISITS BREAVED FAMILY, PAT ALLEGES IT’S A PRESSURE TACTIC:

Earlier in the day, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Zainab’s residence.

In his conversation with the deceased’s parents, the chief minister promised not to rest until the culprit(s) responsible for the heinous crime is brought to book.

Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif consoles Muhammad Ameen, the father of the murdered girl Zainab.

Addressing a press conference after the CM’s visit, Zainab’s father Ameen demanded that the head of the joint investigation team probing the case be changed.

“We don’t have trust in the JIT head,” he said.

After the incident sparked outrage on Wednesday, Shehbaz Sharif had constituted a JIT, to be headed by Additional Inspector-General Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh.

Ameen said that the chief minister had assured him of action against the culprits.

He also appealed to the protesters to stay calm and peaceful, saying “violence may sabotage our peaceful protest”. He added that they do not want conspirators to join their ranks.

The victim’s father lamented that the police did not take any interest after his daughter’s kidnapping.

“Had they taken action in time my daughter would have been here today. I want justice for my daughter,” said Ameen.

Following Ameen’s presser, opposition parties voiced their concern over Shehbaz’s visit, claiming that the chief minister was trying to influence the grieving family.

“Today, the people of Kasur are grieved over the brutal killing of Zainab, [and] tomorrow such incident could happen in other cities. The entire nation has to stand united against rulers and system that have failed to provide them justice,” said Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) General Secretary Khurram Nawaz Gandapur.

Instead of taking actions against the culprit, the PAT general secretary alleged, Shehbaz Sharif was trying to influence Zainab’s family. He claimed that the provincial government deputed a corrupt station house officer in Kasur on the directives of the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

SERIAL KILLER ON THE LOOSE:

The brutal murder of the minor girl is the 12th such case to occur within a two-kilometre radius in the city over the last year.

Zainab Ameen.

The surfacing of a series of similar cases since 2015 have led police to believe that a ‘serial killer’ is behind the horrific rapes and murders of minors in Kasur since 2015.

A rudimentary sketch of the suspect had been prepared by police in 2015 with the help of a local who spotted him as he was going to assault a minor girl in an under-construction house.

A police official said that more incidents of abduction of children, including five girls, occurred in Kasur district ─ all of which were reported within the jurisdiction of three police stations – A Division, B Division and Sadar.

Three out of the eight cases, including the latest one, occurred recently.

The official said a team of senior police officers had last year attempted a detailed analysis of all the cases in the light of circumstantial evidences, DNA test reports, statements of the two girls who survived the assaults, the witnesses and other relevant information.

The efforts were prompted in July 2017 when a case similar to Zainab’s surfaced.

The officers had concluded that a single person was behind all the cases surfacing in the district.

The view was strengthened when the investigators found a close resemblance between the man in the CCTV footage of Zainab and the culprit’s sketch in the police record.

“We had started the hunt for the serial killer shortly after the first case in 2015,” the police official said.

“We had got reports of five DNA samples sent to the lab for analysis and the reports showed they belonged to the same person,” the police official said.

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