Justice for Zainab: Riots erupt in Kasur after 7-year-old's alleged rape, murder
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2018-01-10 13:01:26

Justice for Zainab: Riots erupt in Kasur after 7-year-old's alleged rape, murder

Kasur erupted in riots on Wednesday as residents agitated against perceived police inaction over the alleged rape and murder of a 7-year-old resident of the city.

Two people were killed by gunshot wounds as enraged protesters armed with sticks and stones attempted to storm the deputy commissioner’s office and were repelled by police. Two others were injured in the clashes, hospital sources said.

Television footage showed a policeman firing into the advancing mob before being told to fire into the air. It is not clear yet whether the policeman was responsible for the deaths or injuries.

The brutal murder has incited anger among the city’s residents as it is the 12th such case to occur within a two kilometre radius in the city over a one-year period.

Kasur had last attained local and international notoriety in 2015 when a gang of paedophiles 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.

Girl goes missing
Zainab, 7, had gone to 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 were in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah (the lesser pilgrimage), according to her family, and she had been living with a maternal aunt.

Soon after her abduction, her panicked family had received footage showing her walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road. This video 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 the Shahbaz Khan Road.

Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days earlier. Police had reluctantly handed her body over to the family fearing protests.

A first information report had been registered against the disappearance of the girl on Jan 5, with the victim’s paternal uncle as the complainant in the case. Murder charges were added to the FIR on Jan 9, after the victim’s body was recovered.

‘I want justice for Zainab’
Zainab’s parents returned from their pilgrimage today. As reporters surrounded them outside Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport, her grieving mother said: “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 who have stood by us. The culprits have even been identified but the police has 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.

Police investigate as protests erupt
Police told Dawn 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) Kasur Zulfikar Muhammad confirmed that the girl was strangled to death. He told the media that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif 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.

Protests break out
The recovery of Zainab’s body on Tuesday had ignited protests and a shutter-down strike in the city.

As word got around, traders shuttered their shops and staged a protest demonstration. Scores of other people also gathered at Steel Bagh Mor near the hospital and protested with the girl’s body in the middle of the road. They also threw traffic out of gear by burning tyres on Ferozepur Road and chanted slogans against police and local parliamentarians for their alleged apathy.

People from other parts of the county took to social media to share their anger and outrage over the murder using the hashtag #JusticeForZainab.

Sana appeals for calm
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 advised.

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.”

Rights activist Farzana Bari observed that people “feel unsafe” and “have lost all trust in state institutions”.

“These people that are protesting do not have a leader, they are not being led,” she pointed out. “They are all protesting because they feel unsafe.”

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed while speaking to DawnNews 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.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader Tahirul Qadri performed the funeral prayers for the victim. Television footage showed thousands of people gathered for Zainab’s funeral.

‘Must strengthen system to avoid such crimes’
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.

‘Unforgivable’ incident
Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif and the Senate Standing Committee on Interior took notice of the incident today and ordered the Punjab police to take swift action.

Sharif directed the inspector general of Punjab to bring the culprits to task as soon as possible and to submit an investigation report on the matter.

Senate Committee 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.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa condemned the “cold-blooded murder” and directed immediate support to the civil administration to arrest the criminals and bring them to justice, the army’s media wing tweeted.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl on Wednesday 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.”

The District Bar Association (DBA) has announced a boycott of court proceedings today to express solidarity with the bereaved family and build pressure on the law-enforcement agencies to arrest the killer.

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