Rape, murder of minor Zainab sparks outrage; two killed in Kasur protests

Chief Justice takes suo motu notice after violent protests in Kasur and public outrage on social media

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KASUR: Protests erupted in the city on Wednesday after the reported rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab sparked nationwide public outrage. 

The minor girl, a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur, had gone missing on January 4 when she went to a tuition centre but never returned. At the time of the incident, the minor girl’s parents were in Saudi Arabia where they had gone to perform Umrah. Zainab's body was found in a garbage pile near Kashmir Chowk five days after her disappearance. 

The initial postmortem report of the minor stated that she was strangled to death after being raped multiple times. However, officials said the exact cause of death would be determined after further forensic examination. 

Zainab's parents claimed that police did not cooperate in finding their child. "If the police would have acted immediately, the culprit would have been caught," said Zainab's father. 

The funeral prayers of the deceased were offered Wednesday afternoon, led by Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Tahir-ul-Qadri.

Zainab was laid to rest later in the evening after her funeral prayers were offered for the second time. 

"I thank Tahirul Qadri for taking out time for leading funeral prayers of my child," the father of the murdered girl told reporters.

He said that police and Nadra should employ their resources to identify the suspect, but lamented that authorities had completely failed in identifying the murderer.

The father demanded that the perpetrator be "publicly punished."

A team of intelligence agencies visited the residence of the deceased early Thursday morning, informed sources. The team noted down the statements of late Zainab's parents.

The security officials also collected evidence related to the case.

Chief justice takes suo moto notice

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar has taken suo motu notice of the rape and murder of the minor girl, ordering the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Punjab to submit a report to the court within 24 hours. 

Earlier in the day, responding to the parents' appeal the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa issued directives for all-out support to the civil administration to arrest the criminals and bring them to exemplary justice. 

Chief Justice Lahore High Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah has also taken notice of the incident. The LHC chief justice has summoned reports from sessions judge Kasur and police officials. 

CM Shehbaz visits

Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited the deceased's residence early Thursday morning 

Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif visited the house of the late Zainab in the early hours of Thursday. In his conversation with the deceased’s parents, Shehbaz promised action against the culprit(s) responsible for the heinous crime.

The chief minister was accompanied by senior government officials and Punjab government spokesperson.

Two killed in violent protests 

At least two people were killed and one injured when police opened fire on protesters who had broken into the DC Office on Wednesday. Video from the protests showed some policemen opening straight fire on protesters. 

Authorities have conducted the postmortem of the deceased, Shoaib and Muhammad Ali.

Two policemen and two members of civil defence forces have been arrested on the charge of firing at the protestors. 

The families of the deceased have filed a report against 16 unknown policemen. 

Protests broke out in various areas of the city against the incident. Angry protesters, chanting slogans against the authorities and demanding immediate arrest of the culprits, broke into the DC Office. 

The protesters broke the gates and entered the vicinity of DC office forcefully. Photo: Geo News screengrab

Enraged protesters vandalised public property and cars inside the vicinity along with pelting stones at police officers. 

Protests were also held on Tuesday but called off after eight hours when the police assured that the suspects would be arrested.

On Tuesday, protesters had blocked roads and closed markets. An incident of protesters pushing police officers was also reported near Ferozepur Road.

One of the protesters shared that seven minor girls were kidnapped last year, yet the police failed to arrest a single suspect.

In light of the protests the District Commissioner summoned the paramilitary Rangers force to control the situation.

CM constitutes Joint Investigation Team 

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif has constituted a Joint Investigation Team headed by Additional Inspector-General Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh. 

The JIT, which also includes officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), has been ordered to submit its report within 24 hours. 

"Justice for the parents will be dispensed at all costs," the chief minister had said earlier in the day, adding that he would personally look after the case investigation.

"I want the culprits involved in this heinous crime behind bars. Those failing in their duties will be proceeded against," he had said while chairing a meeting earlier in the day. 

The culprits won't be able to escape punishment, he had vowed, adding that police officers should also be investigated for showing negligence.

Later in the evening, the Punjab government announced that all four policemen who had opened fire on protesters in Kasur have been arrested. 

"Investigation is underway. JIT is working on Zainab murder case and will apprehend all those involved in this heinous crime soon," the Punjab government said in a tweet. 

'Murderers will be given exemplary punishment'

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said two people were suspected to be involved in the rape and murder of Zainab, adding they will be arrested soon and given an exemplary punishment. 

Earlier, while speaking to Geo News, he assured that the suspect(s) of the Kasur incident will be arrested in the next few hours.

He also challenged the narrative pertaining to police’s inaction in the case, adding that the police were in contact with the minor’s family constantly and conducting an investigation.

When asked about lack of police action regarding similar cases in Kasur, Sanaullah remarked that all the cases are of different nature. It’s not that there is just one suspect behind all the incidents whom the police have failed to arrest, he said.

The CCTV footage shows that the minor was walking with someone she knew. “It was either someone from her family, neighbourhood or servant,” the provincial law minister speculated.

“The CM personally focuses on such cases,” he said, adding that the case will be traced out soon. “The criminals will be caught, punished and taken to their logical conclusion.”

On the violent protests in Kasur, he remarked that the people should control their emotions in such situations and not cause harm to public property. “It is worrisome that some people are resorting to violence, arson. I request people to stay calm and exercise patience.”

‘96 DNA samples sent for testing’

RPO Sheikhupura Range, Zulfiqar Hameed said it was not correct to term the incident negligence on the part of the police.

While speaking to media, he shared that the minor was strangled to death after being raped and everyone is grieving over the incident.

The minor's family provided the CCTV footage and neighbours also helped in the case but it is incorrect to think that police is being negligent, Hameed said. 

He remarked that reviewing footage from more than a dozen CCTVs installed in the area is an arduous task. However, police travelled quite far to search and review the footages.

The RPO assured that all possible steps will be taken for the sake of security.

Hameed also said that 96 samples of DNA have been sent for testing, adding that the police hope to find DNA match in at least five cases.

Earlier, DPO Kasur, Zulfiqar Ahmed revealed that over 5,000 people have been questioned in eight cases related to minor girls being allegedly raped and then murdered in the city, while medical checkups of 67 individuals have taken place. The official added that the police is using video from CCTV as part of the investigation.

Authorities later removed DPO Kasur Zulfiqar Ahmed from office, sending him on special duty (OSD). 

Demands for justice 

People on social media raised their voice against the incident and demanded swift justice for the culprit(s). #JusticeForZainab was the top trend on Twitter, with people calling for immediate action against those responsible. 

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari termed the rape and murder shocking. He was critical of the provincial government, demanding immediate action against the culprits.

“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,” the PPP chairman said in a statement.

In a tweet, the PPP chairman said that Pakistan needed to reevaluate how it dealt with such crimes. 

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari tweeted that the minor was horrifically tortured and murdered and her heart breaks for the child’s family.

Tahir-ul-Qadri, who offered the funeral prayers of the deceased, termed the murder of the minor an “abjection of humanity.” The government has failed to protect the lives and property of the people, he said.

“Four days have passed and the suspect is yet to be arrested,” he remarked, adding that the Model Town incident had been repeated in Kasur. “Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif need to help the oppressed and become their support.”

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman in a tweet said: “The condemnable and horrific rape of the minor had once again exposed how vulnerable children are. “This is not the first time such horrific acts have happened. We have to act swiftly to punish and ensure that our children are protected.” 

Imran also tweeted about the police opening fire on protesters. 

PTI's Arif Alvi also demanded that the "culprits must be found and punished". 

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif also spoke out against the incident, demanding swift punishment for the culprits. "The beasts who have disrespected our daughters should be punished immediately," he said.

He stressed that an example should be made of such beasts so that "no one has the courage to engage in such repugnant acts."

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz called for the culprits to not only be brought to justice but also made an example of.

On February 25 last year, a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped and then strangled to death in Kasur. According to reports, her body was found at an abandoned house near her residence in Ali Park.

The victim's family and neighbours had protested by blocking Lahore road – as they demanded justice and called for stern punishment against the offenders.

In August 2015, the country's biggest child abuse scandal was unearthed in Ganda Singh Wala area of Kasur, where around 400 videos were made of 280 victims of abuse by a gang of over 25 criminals.