LAHORE - Police launched a hunt for pedophiles after the media broke the news that a five-year-old girl had been admitted to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in critical condition late Thursday.

The hapless girl went missing Thursday morning when she was playing outside her house in Mughalpura. Police registered a case against unidentified people on the complaint of her father but did nothing till late Thursday, when the minor was reported hospitalised.

According to doctors, the girl was lying unconscious outside the hospital when some passersby told the police by phone.

She was shifted to Services Hospital, where she is battling for life. Doctors made an appeal for blood donation. Her body also bore torture marks, said hospital sources.

“She has been shifted to ICU after her successful surgery,” Services Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Rehana Malik told reporters Friday evening.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, furious over the shameful crime, took notice of the brutality and directed the police to arrest the beasts. The culprits must be given stern punishment, an official quoted the CM ordering top cops. The CM said that such savages deserve no mercy.

A team, headed by SP CIA Muhammad Omar Virk, visited the residence of the victim and recorded statements of her family members and neighbours. “We don’t have any clue yet. However, we are investigating the case keeping in view different aspects,” Virk said, adding that the criminals involved in the brutality are unidentified so far.

Late on Friday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo moto notice and ordered the Punjab IGP to submit report within 24 hours.

The incidents of rape and gang-rapes are on the rise in the Punjab province. The Punjab police registered 1,526 rape cases and 109 gang-rape cases during the first seven months of this year. More than 350 cases are still under investigation as the police are unable to arrest the rapists.

Police sources disclosed to The Nation that the main pedophile had been captured in Lahore while the police continued raids to nab his accomplices. However, a senior cop denied the arrest, saying that the hunt for the criminals is on as the investigators are closing in on the rapists.

Rape is a serious crime punishable by death. Human rights activists however say incompetent law enforcement mechanisms have made it easier for perpetrators to get off the hook.  The sources say they believe that the culprits would be given exemplary punishment for the brutality in the heart of Lahore, where the police have already launched an aggressive campaign of ‘police encounters’ to tackle hardcore criminals.