Violent protests against Zainab’s rape, murder continue in Kasur on second day

Residents took to streets in protest, lawyers boycotted courts today

Amin Hafeez
Zeeshan Baksh

KASUR: An hour's drive from the provincial capital of Lahore, the city of Kasur continues to be gripped by a mix of gloom and rage. Protests following the brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab that started a day earlier gained further strength on Thursday. 

The minor girl, a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur, had gone missing on January 4 when she ventured out of the house. Her body was found in a garbage pile near Kashmir Chowk five days later.

As protests re-erupted in the city today, the house of local provincial lawmaker Naeem Safdar was ransacked. Police also failed to stop the protesters from ransacking the local government hospital. 

Residents protested across the city, including Kali Pul Chowk, whereas the Ferozepur Road, linking Kasur to nearby towns and cities, remained blocked. Moreover, protest demonstrations over the incident were held across the country, from Peshawar to Karachi. 

Markets in Kasur also remained close 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 Punjab Bar Council had also announced a complete boycott of courts today and demanded the immediate arrest of the killer(s). 

Later in the afternoon, protesters attacked the dera [camp office] of local PML-N MPA Naeem Safdar, and burnt furniture and cars in rage. 

Police resorted to tear gas shelling and use of water cannon to disperse protesters. More than 60 protesters were held for arson.

Imran blames Punjab Police

In a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan came down hard on the provincial government over the incident.

"The parents of the seven-year-old Zainab are also demanding justice from the army chief and chief justice, not the Punjab police and provincial government. The police which is supposed to protect people is busy protecting one family,” said Imran. 

Punjab Police submit report

The Punjab Police has submitted its report to the Supreme Court on the rape and murder of Zainab. Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar had taken suo moto of the case on Wednesday and directed police to submit a report in 24 hours.

The report outlines when Zainab was abducted and the police investigation in the case.

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.

Slain protesters buried 

The funeral of the two protesters allegedly 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 read by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasoolullah chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Rizvi recently held a protest sit-in against the government in Islamabad.

The post-mortem report of the slain protesters is also expected to be released today.

Two policemen and as many civil defence officials have been held for firing on protesters while murder charges have been included in two FIRs registered against 16 unidentified policemen on the complaints of the deceased's brothers.  

They liked to race to aunt's house: Zainab's uncle 

Talking on Geo News' morning show Geo Pakistan Thursday morning, Mudassar, the paternal uncle of the victim, said Zainab and his son, seven-year-old Usman, would go to their aunt's house daily to read the Quran. 

He said that the two kids would often race to get there, and on that fateful evening Zainab went out first, followed by Usman, but wasn't at her Khala's house by the time Usman reached there.

Mudassar also stated that he doesn't recognise the man walking next to Zainab in the CCTV footage, saying that the potential suspect is forcibly holding her arm in the video. 

Rs10 million reward for identifying culprit 

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced a Rs10 million reward for whoever identifies the culprit behind the heinous crime. 

Chairing an important meeting over the Kasur tragedy on Thursday, Shehbaz also announced Rs3 million each for the families of the two protesters killed in firing by the police. 

The chief minister ordered that the charge-sheet for the case should be presented in court within 24 hours. 

He also said that the Safe City Project would be expanded to Kasur, and summoned details of the pending 12 similar cases , said his spokesperson. 

CM Shehbaz also visited Zainab's residence earlier today. 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.

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

Moreover, overnight, officials of an intelligence agency collected evidence and recorded the statements of victim Zainab's family.

'Strangled to death, raped multiple times'

Zainab's initial postmortem report 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 after she went missing. "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 Tahirul Qadri.

Zainab was laid to rest later in the evening.