Protests, strike in Chichawatni after eight-year-old girl is raped, burnt alive


CHICHAWATNI: An eight-year-old girl, who was burnt alive after allegedly being raped, breathed her last at a hospital in Lahore, sparking street protests and a shutter-down strike in her hometown.

The protesters raised slogans as the girl’s body was carried for funeral prayers. Carrying banners appealing for justice, the protesters demanded that the culprits behind the girl’s murder be hanged.

Noor Fatima, a second-grade student, had gone missing on Sunday evening after she left home to buy some sweets. When she did not return after a while, her family members and neighbours started looking for her and found her in a street in an unconscious state, with burns all over her body. She was taken to Tehsil Headquarters (THQ) Hospital, from where she was referred to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore due to her critical condition. According to doctors, she had received 70 to 80 per cent burns. The girl died during treatment late on Monday night. The body was handed over to the family after post-mortem.

The child was laid to rest at a graveyard in Chichawatni after the funeral prayers, which were attended by a large number of people.

Sahiwal District Police Officer (DPO) Atif Ikram said that police had filed a case and took a suspect into custody. He said that a murder case has been filed whereas rape charges will be added after receiving the forensic report. He vowed to arrest the culprits as soon as possible.

The father of the victim demanded the government provide his family justice.

Amidst unrest in the community, civil society representatives and political figures visited the victim’s house and assured the affected family of their complete support.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has taken notice of the murder.

Since the beginning of 2018, there has been a marked upsurge in the reporting of sexual abuse cases across Pakistan. The brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari in Kasur earlier this year in particular shocked the entire country, with #JusticeforZainab becoming the rallying cry in a nationwide drive to end violence against children.

An anti-terrorism court sentenced Imran Ali to death on four counts in the Zainab murder case, while the Lahore High Court dismissed his appeal against the trial court’s verdict.