LAHORE - Three girls, as young as six, were raped and murdered in different districts of the Punjab province over the last couple

of weeks.

These horrific homicides were reported by police in Lahore, Okara and Vehari districts. The suspects were arrested by police. The police shot and killed two suspects in Lahore and Okara districts as they confessed to the investigators their involvement in the rape and murder of children.

The suspect arrested in connection with the rape and killing of a child in Vehari district was in police custody. Any time, the police can stage a similar shootout to decide the fate of this alleged rapist like they did in Okara and Lahore.

The latest incident of child “rape and murder” was reported in Okara district last week. A six-year-old girl identified as Eman went missing when she was playing outside her village home near Renala Khurd. The police arrested a man in connection with the abduction.

During interrogation, the suspect identified as Sharif confessed to the police that he killed the child after sexual assault. The police, on his revelation, discovered the body from the nearby fields. The alleged rapist had buried the child in the fields,

police said.

As the man admitted the horrific killing before the investigators, the police staged a fake encounter and shot dead the alleged child rapist. This police action was “welcomed” by the local population and they showered rose petals on the police officers who took part in the “operation”.

In Vehari district, another six-year-old girl went missing on the night of Eid Milad. According to the Vehari district police officer, Umer Saeed Malik, they recovered body of the molested child from Fida Chungi City, Marriage Hall area the next morning.

The daughter of a vegetable seller, Zahra, was playing in the street when she was abducted by unknown men. Reportedly, the police widened the scope of investigation by constituting a three-member investigation team to hunt down

the killers.

“Finally, special teams got success due to their efforts day and night. The alleged murderer of Zahra was her next door neighbour identified as 29-year-old Muhammad Asif, son of Abdul Razzaq. Asif was a laborer by profession. On the night of 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal, he raped the girl by intoxicating her and left Zahra unconscious on the spot,” the police said in a statement.

According to the Vehari police, the killer buried the girl near a deserted building to conceal his act. Police said Asif had already criminal history. He was acquitted in a rape case in 2016. During interrogation, he confessed to police his involvement in many immoral activities.

Police officer Umar Saeed Malik told reporters that the alleged killer confessed to police that he had raped and murdered the girl. The police claimed the alleged killer would be given exemplary punishment. According to police, the locals praised the force and showered flowers on officers with slogans in favour of police.

Meanwhile, Lahore police shot dead a teenage boy, days after he was arrested for allegedly raping and killing a seven-year-old girl in Sabzazar. The murder was reported by police by the end of last month.

A police official denied the suspect named as Rizwan was killed in a staged shooting. According to him, the suspect was being taken to a house for identification when he tried to snatch a rifle from a police constable. “The gun went off as the boy tried to overpower the constable. He sustained a bullet in the chest and died instantly,” the official of the Sabzazar investigation police said.

On the other hand, a source close to the police investigators said the suspect was killed in a fake encounter. He said the suspect was shot dead after he confessed to the police his involvement in the rape and murder of seven-year-old Phool.

Earlier, the Sabzazar police had arrested two brothers and their parents in connection with the killing of the child. Police officer Rizwan Omar Gondal had claimed the girl was murdered after being raped by Irfan and Rizwan. According to the officer, both boys took the girl to their home from the street when she was playing. They raped and then strangled her with a piece of cloth, he said, adding that the next morning, they loaded the body into an auto rickshaw and fled after throwing it into a drain near Jinnah Hospital. The boys had disposed of the body in connivance with their parents.

Extra-judicial killings or fake police encounters are quite common in the Punjab province where police killed at least 226 alleged criminals this year. In June, city police shot and killed a suspected child rapist in the Harbanspura police precincts. Police had claimed that the 22-year-old suspect, Omar, who was killed during a raid, was allegedly involved in the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl

In 2014, the police revealed in its annual report that one female was assaulted sexually every three hours and 40 minutes while one gang-rape incident occurred every 45 hours and 38 minutes in 2013 in the Punjab province.

Of 2,576 rape incidents reported in 2013, victims in 167 cases were children. The five-year-old girl who was found dumped outside Sir Ganga Ram Hospital after being raped in Lahore in September was also among them.

As a matter of fact, police quashed at least 654 FIRs by using various tactics to help the accused flee punishment. In 2006, the federal government had added three sections to the Pakistan Penal Code of 1860, which provide for death for rapists as the maximum punishment and an imprisonment not less than 10 years. But there was no let up in child molestation cases despite harsh punishment for criminals.

Experts cited several reasons for rise in rape incidents, including porn movies and faulty police investigations.