Pak Rape & Murder: Suspect in Zainab Case Arrested

Seven-year-old girl Zainab Ansari’s body was found near a dumpster.

4 min read
People attend a funeral of a Pakistani girl who was raped and killed, in Kasur, Pakistan, on 10 January.

Pakistani authorities, on Wednesday, 17 January, arrested a suspect in the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl that ignited nationwide protests and outrage over allegations of government inaction, two police officials said.

Zainab was allegedly raped and strangled to death in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, days after another minor was brutally raped and murdered in the country, triggering a national outrage.

Hours before the funeral of the minor, an enraged mob attacked a police station and a nearby government building on 11 January, triggering clashes that left at least two people dead and several injured.

Local television channels broadcast footage showing police firing at the mob, who resorted to pelting stones.

The footage, accessed by channels like Dawn and Daily Times, shows a policeman firing at the protesting crowd, even as his colleague can be heard yelling at him, instructing him to fire in the air instead.

The demonstrators protested what they alleged was failure on part of the government to ensure safety for the minor rape victim. Shops in Kasur stayed shut on 10 January.

Distraught Parents Demand Justice

Zainab, whose body was found in a garbage bin on 10 January, went missing last week while going to a nearby house for Quranic studies. According to a Dawn report, a missing persons FIR had been lodged by Zainab’s uncle on 5 January, a day after she went missing.

Days later, CCTV footage of a man leading Zainab away began to make the rounds on social media. Zainab’s strangled body was found by the police in a dumpster. A medical investigation confirmed she had been raped and murdered four or five days before she was found.

Her parents, who were away at a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time of the crime, demanded justice for Zainab. "We will not bury our daughter until her killers are arrested,” local media quoted them as saying. They returned from Saudi Arabia a day after their daughter’s body was found.

"The Investigation Is in Full Swing"

RPO Sheikhupura Range, Zulfiqar Hameed said it was not correct to term the incident negligence on the part of the police. Ninety-six samples of DNA have been sent for testing, adding that the police hope to find a DNA match in at least five cases.

One suspect has been identified using CCTV footage and the police have released a sketch of the suspect.

Sketch of one of the suspects in the Kasur rape case.
Sketch of one of the suspects in the Kasur rape case.
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@AnwerSyed4)

Speaking to GEO TV, Zainab’s father Mohammad Ameen alleged that the police had been negligent in the case.

The police showed negligence over the last five days. Prompt action by the police [in the days since her kidnapping] could have saved my daughter.
As told to GEO TV

Ameen said that he could not recognise the suspect who had been captured in the CCTV footage.

JIT Formed to Probe the Case

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting where he directed authorities to not engage in “lip service” and arrest the culprits at the earliest. Sharif also constituted a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), headed by Additional IG (Investigation) Abu Bakar Khuda.

Lahore High Court’s Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah also took cognisance of the case and ordered a probe.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told Dawn that the police were trying to contain the violence and find and arrest those involved in the girl's murder and urged people to stay calm and not resort to violence since they are proceeding with the investigation.

People need to keep their emotions in check and not aggravate the situation.
Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to Dawn

Outrage Pours in

Opposition PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto has termed the brutal rape and murder of the girl "shocking and a slap on the face of Sharifdom (the Sharif brothers)".

Human rights activist and peace lobbyist Malal Yousufzai too condemned the ghastly incident.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan, former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, Maryam Nawaz and other politicians condemned the incident and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits.

Offering condolences to the family, Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief and firebrand cleric Tahir-ul Qadri demanded the local government be replaced, saying it has "no right to remain in power after the killing of Zainab Ansari."

Qadri blamed Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in a speech for failing to "protect lives and honor of innocent girls" in the province and issued an ultimatum to Sharif and Sanaullah to step down by 17 January to avoid street protests.

The Dark Past of Sexual Abuse Scandal in Kasur

This is not the lone incident in the eastern Punjab province of Pakistan. According to BBC news, police in Kasur say there have been 12 similar murders in the past years.

Kasur's history of sexual assault crimes dates back to August 2015 when The Nation broke the news of Hussain Khanwala village where around 400 videos were made of at least 280 children being sexually abused by a gang who blackmailed their parents to extort money.

After massive public outrage, the child protection laws were amended in Pakistan which criminalised criminalised sexual assault against minors, child pornography and trafficking for the first time – previously only acts of rape and sodomy were punishable by law.

(With inputs from AP and Reuters)

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