KASUR - No arrest has been confirmed yet in Zainab murder case as violence flared up across Kasur city on the second consecutive day on Thursday. All markets and businesses remained shut and there was no public transport on the roads.

While top police investigators and intelligence operatives are struggling to uncover the culprit, the provincial authorities have announced Rs10 million reward for information about the killer.

The post-mortem report of the seven-year-old Zainab, who was murdered by an unknown kidnapper, suggested the kid was raped and tortured before strangulation to death.

Kasur city remained disconnected from other parts of the province throughout the day as thousands of protesters equipped with wooden sticks and iron roads took over all major roads and crossings in the morning.

In the afternoon, large crowds thronged a local ground to offer funeral prayers of two victims of police shooting. Violent clashes followed the funerals. The Kashmir Chowk located on the Shahbaz Khan Road turned into a virtual battlefield.

Heavy police contingents were called in to control the crowds that started throwing stones on the policemen deployed around key government installations. Police fired tear-gas to disperse mobs at different places but they kept fighting back and pelting the cops with stones and bricks. The police also used water cannon to break up protests.

The law and order situation worsened in the evening as clashes erupted on major city crossings. The roads were seen littered with pieces of brick and empty shells, and pillars of smoke from the burning of tyres at roads could be seen even from considerable distance.

In late night raids, police picked up dozens of suspected protesters from their homes.

NO PROGRESS IN ZAINAB CASE

A Punjab government spokesman told The Nation that the federal intelligence agencies and police investigators are working together to find the criminal in Zainab case.

“The suspect [however] could not be identified so far. Nobody has come forward to reveal his name,” Special Assistant to Chief Minister Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan said while referring to a widely circulated CCTV footage showing a man taking the victim girl along with him on the day she was abducted.

“The killer seems to be familiar with the child since the girl could be seen strolling with him quite comfortably,” Khan told this reporter at his Khudian Khaas residence.

The forensic experts were examining the footage which however was “not very clear unfortunately”, he said. Khan said the police were mapping the locality to get some solid clues. “Any real-time picture of the suspect will be more helpful as compared to sketches (prepared by law enforcement agencies),” he added.

A day earlier, Chief Justice of Pakistan and Lahore High Court chief justice had taken notice of the incident and ordered for producing the reports on the tragic incident. Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had also ordered the security agencies to step up efforts and help local administration in hunting down the culprit.

Police shooting probe

Ahmad Khan condemned the police shooting that left two protesters dead and seven others wounded. Earlier, a Punjab government official claimed that six personnel, including four policemen and two civil defence officials were arrested by police for allegedly firing at the protesters.

“Initial investigation suggests that the victims were fired by the official bodyguards of the Kasur Deputy Commissioner. The police guards opened fire when the mob tried to advance towards the office of the deputy commissioner,” the government spokesman claimed.

To a question about the recent killings of a few alleged child murderers, the official said that they were investigating a specific case in which the police “incorrectly” shot and killed a suspected child rapist. “A judicial inquiry is underway (with regard to the staged police shooting),” he admitted.

Mistrust in authorities

The streets of the neighbourhood named Road Kot, where Zainab used to play, were filled with people on Thursday. A large number of people were seen chanting slogans against police and government as they passed through the narrow streets of the area.

Muhammad Amin father of the child while talking to reporters outside his house reiterated that they had no trust in the government and the police. “We demand justice for Zainab from the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the Chief of Army Staff. We don’t believe in the joint investigation team,” he said.

Speaking after his meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, he accused the police of being slow to respond when his daughter went missing. He said family and friends searched frantically for Zainab after she was reported missing, but police expended little effort.

“My relatives and neighbours told me that the police used to come, have food and leave,” he told reporters. “While they didn’t do anything, my friends and family spent day and night looking for my daughter.”

 

 

Public anger against ruling party figures

Ahmad Khan is one of the several ruling party figures who fearing people’s wrath remained out of public sight as fresh clashes erupted between police and protesters on Thursday evening.

In some parts of the city, angry mobs tried to attack the residences of local parliamentarians of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, holding them responsible for the police inaction against the criminals who prey on kids like Zainab.

Elite police personnel were seen guarding the houses of local parliamentarians amid mayhem and large-scale violence in the town.

Some politicians, mostly of the ruling party, were forced to go back home when they attempted to visit the house of the victim family. However, angry protesters welcomed the religious and political leaders belonging to the opposition parties.

 

 

Medical report

District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Medico Legal Officer Dr Quratulain Attique told reporters that Zainab had died of strangulation while her hymen was ruptured. There was also evidence to suggest that the child had been sodomised, the medical officer said.

Sources close to police investigators revealed that there were visible marks of torture on her face and congestion in her muscles while her tongue was badly bruised and injured as it was pressed between her teeth. She said the hyoid bone was fractured, indicating strangulation.

Dr Attique said an initial examination suggested she might have died three to four days ago. On January 4, Zainab went missing when she was going to a nearby religious school.

Although the MLO did not explicitly confirm that the minor was raped, findings in the autopsy suggest that she may have been sexually assaulted. There was mud, faecal matter and blood found on her body, said Dr Attique, and samples of semen and blood were collected from her body.

The samples have been sent to a lab in Lahore for testing, Dr Attique said, adding that the process of testing can take up to three months. Dr Attique said that this was the fourth such case she has seen in the seven months at district headquarter hospital in DHQ Kasur .

“There are similarities in all such cases. The findings in previous cases were similar to those in Zainab’s case,” the lady doctor explained.

Over one dozen child rape and murder cases were reported by police in Kasur district last year and most of the victims belonged to the same locality, police sources said.

Child abuse cases are not rare in Punjab. Hundreds of children are molested across the province every year. Also dozens of rape victims are killed by criminals, the police data shows. In the recent child rape and murder cases, all the young victims were targeted and killed in a similar style.

 

 

Kasur keeps burning


 

ASHRAF JAVED