KASUR  -  The murder after rape of a little girl sparked violent protests in Kasur which claimed at least two more lives on Wednesday. The brutalisation of seven-year-old Zainab also sent ripples of anger and anguish across the whole country.

As television channels reported on child’s gruesome murder and flashed pictures of police firing on an angry mob to check its advance to Deputy Commissioner’s office, people at large took to social media to condemn inefficiency and apathy of authorities.

All this forced the state and governmental authorities at different levels to take notice of the situation and pledge quick delivery of justice to the victims. Politicians of all hue and colour also jumped in to condemn the brutality, while some of them even tried to cash in on the situation.

The latest rape and murder of a child is the sixth such incident reported in the Kasur district during the last three months, police sources revealed. In 2017, police reported over one dozen such cases in the same district.

Club-wielding citizens roamed the roads in early hours of the night as police had disappeared following the day-long clashes – in which seven protesters had also been injured. Rangers had been called to restore calm in the town, which is only 20 kilometres from the provincial capital Lahore.

A local resident told The Nation that one of the two critically injured too had succumbed to his wounds on way to a Lahore hospital, taking the death toll to three – though this could not be confirmed officially. Rest of the injured were being treated at Kasur District Headquarters Hospital.

“The anger of the people is justified”, another local said. “Parents are seriously worried about the safety of their children [after this latest such incident],” 34-year-old Tahir added.



Poor kid’s story

Zainab was abducted by a man when she was going to a nearby religious school on January 4 (Thursday). Her body was found in the fields near Elite College on Shahbaz Khan Road Tuesday afternoon, locals said. Police investigators believe the child was killed four or five days earlier, on the day of abduction or the next day.

Her parents had gone for Umerah (pilgrimage), leaving her with her maternal aunt. The FIR of her going missing was registered on the complaint of one of her parental uncles, a day after the abduction.

A police officer told The Nation that the little girl was repeatedly raped before she was strangled. “Also, there were sever torture marks on her body,” he said requesting anonymity.

“A shepherd made hue and cry as he witnessed the body,” said 20-year-old Kashif who lives in the same locality.

The parents of the poor kid returned from Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a day after her body was found. And murder charges were added to the FIR after recovery of her body.

Police said they were also investigating a TV footage that showed the girl walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road. A sketch of the suspect issued by police during the day was declared unsound at night.



Ravaged parents

Relatives were seen weeping profusely next to the body of Zainab. Her funeral prayers were offered Wednesday afternoon but the burial is pending.

“We have just reached Islamabad. The police did nothing to recover my daughter. My daughter is the latest victim of this horrific crime. Some serial killer is behind such incidents,” said victim’s father Ameen.

“We live in a joint family so I had handed over my children to relatives before leaving for Saudi Arabia,” he told the media persons at the airport.

“I have no words [on this],” the devastated mother of the child told reporters. She said she just wanted justice for her daughter.

During a Waqt News talk show later, victim’s father said, “I have lost trust in the government and the police. I appeal to the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief Justice of Pakistan to provide us justice.”

Earlier he told reporters that “we will not bury her until we get justice”. “We are now afraid of letting our children leave the home. How was our child kidnapped from a busy street?” he asked.

The parents of the child were on the way back to their hometown till late Wednesday night.



Shooting at protesters

A man, while showing a mobile phone recording, told The Nation that the police opened straight fire on the people, many of them villagers, as they tried to attack some government buildings including the office of the district police officer.

“Two of the protesters died on the spot while the third succumbed to injuries at the Lahore General Hospital hours later,” said 55-year-old Bashir Ahmad.

A spokesman for the Punjab’s Emergency Service said at least nine people received bullet injuries as police fired on protesters near the main gate of the office of the Deputy Commissioner.

Two people died on the spot and seven others were sent to district headquarters hospital with bullet injuries, he said. The condition of two of the injured was said to be serious.

TV footage showed a policeman firing straight at the angry mob before being told by a colleague to fire into the air. It was not clear yet whether the same policeman was responsible for the deaths or injuries.



Administrative action

A Punjab government official last night claimed that six personnel, including four policemen and two civil defence officials, were arrested for the alleged firing at the protesters.

Earlier, talking action on the murder of Zainab, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif removed Kasur DPO Zulfiqar Ahmad, making him an OSD (officer on special duty). The chief minister also ordered immediate arrest of the culprits of shooting at protesters.

Besides setting up a joint investigation team (JIT) on the incident, the chief minister said he would personally monitor moment-to-moment progress of the probe. He also directed the IG police to reach at the crime scene himself.

The CM also extended sympathies to the bereaved family and assured that justice would be provided at every cost.

Presiding over a meeting, Shehbaz reprimanded the police officials and made it clear that criminals must be arrested at the earliest. Additional chief secretary (home), IG police, RPO Sheikhupura and concerned officials attended the meeting.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar also took notice of Zainab’s rape and brutal murder. He sought report from the IGP within 24 hours.

Earlier, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah also took notice of the incident and ordered Kasur DPO to submit report.

The spokesman for the military tweeted that the army chief had directed “all out support to civil administration to arrest the criminals and bringing them to exemplary justice”.



Child abuse history and police response

Child abuse cases are not rare in this Punjab, which is most populated province of the country and is considered most developed in all respects. Hundreds of children are molested across the province every year. Also dozens of rape victims are killed by criminals, the police data shows.

The back to back incidents of child abuse, abductions, and even murders have triggered fear and panic across the whole province. Many people say they believe some gangs are involved in the child abduction cases but the police investigators have failed to nab the criminals in most of the cases. Police has even extrajudicial killings of suspects, but has failed to stop such horrific incidents.

Asif Rafeeq, who lives near the house of the victim, said that the police failed to arrest any rapists or killers behind the series of such incident. “In this town (Road Kot), children are being abducted by some gang. They are being raped and murdered. But the police and the government have failed to do anything to save the children,” said Asif.

Kasur district police killed a few suspects in staged encounters in the recent past. Reportedly, some officers claimed that the alleged criminals killed in police action in the same area had raped and killed children in separate incidents.

In the recent child rape and murder cases, all the young victims were targeted and killed in a similar style. The police identified the bodies but failed to identify the criminals.

Almost two years ago, country’s biggest child abuse scandal surfaced in the same district which made headlines across the globe.

A gang of around 25 sexual predators preyed on an estimated 250 to 300 children, mostly boys, in Hussain Khanwala village of Kasur. They abused the children, made their porn videos, sold those on the internet and blackmailed their families for years before being busted.

Hundreds of video clips along with porn photographs of children were recovered from the possession of the criminals and they confessed to their crime during investigations. But only a couple of convictions came at the end of a year-long prosecution process. The culprits allegedly enjoyed backing of powerful politicians.



Rage over rape and murder of a little angel