After Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took Suo motu notice of the brutal murder of six-year-old Zainab in Kasur, Inspector General Punjab Arif Nawaz Khan submitted a report to the Supreme Court on Thursday saying that 272 suspects have been questioned about the incident.
The report said that geo-fencing data from the area was acquired and all resources are being employed to catch the culprit. It also said a house-to-house search was being conducted based on the information provided by the last witness of the crime.
It said that a case had separately been registered regarding the incident of firing on people protesting Zainab’s murder. Sections 302 and 201 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which deal with wilful murder and wiping out evidence, have been included in the first information report (FIR) of the incident, the report said.
A post-mortem examination of the victim, who went missing on Jan 4 and was found dead in a trash heap by police on Jan 9, suggested she was raped and strangled to death. DNA samples collected from her body have been sent to a lab in Lahore for forensic testing ─ a process that can take up to three months.
The victim’s family yesterday accused the police of being uncooperative when they were alerted that Zainab had gone missing.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told DawnNews earlier today that the joint investigation team tasked to investigate the murder has been in touch with the family and will work closely with them to solve the case.
He added that at least four people have been taken into custody for “investigation purposes”, but no formal arrests had been made in the case as yet. “We are hopeful that the culprit will be caught very soon,” the minister said.
The brutal murder of the girl is the 12th such case to occur within a two-kilometer radius in the city over the last year.
The surfacing of a series of similar cases since 2015 has led police to believe that a ‘serial killer’ is behind the horrific rapes and murders of minors in Kasur.
Police believe ‘serial killer’ behind murder
An initial probe indicates that a ‘serial killer’ was behind all eight cases reported in the district since 2015.
A rudimentary sketch of the suspect had been prepared by police in 2015 with the help of a local who spotted him as he was going to assault a minor girl in an under-construction house.
A police official told Dawn that more incidents of abduction of children, including five girls, occurred in Kasur district ─ all of which were reported within the jurisdiction of three police stations – A Division, B Division, and Sadar.
Three out of the eight cases, including the latest one, occurred recently.
The official said a team of senior police officers had last year attempted a detailed analysis of all the cases in the light of the circumstantial evidence, DNA test reports, statements of the two girls who survived the assaults, the witnesses, and other relevant information.
The efforts were prompted in July 2017 when a case similar to Zainab’s surfaced.
The officers had concluded that a single person was behind all the cases surfacing in the district.
The view was strengthened when the investigators found a close resemblance between the man in the CCTV footage of Zainab and the culprit’s sketch in the police record.
“We had started the hunt for the serial killer shortly after the first case in 2015,” the police official said.
“We had got reports of five DNA samples sent to the lab for analysis and the reports showed they belonged to the same person,” the police official said.
6-year-old Zainab’s autopsy suggests child endured rape, captivity before murder
A postmortem examination conducted on 6-year-old Zainab, whose body was recovered from a trash heap in Kasur days after she went missing, suggests she may have been raped before she was strangled to death.
District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Medico-Legal Officer (MLO) Dr Quratulain Attique told Dawn.com on Thursday that the examination revealed the minor girl had died of strangulation.
There were visible marks of torture on the child’s face, congestion in her muscles, and her tongue was badly bruised and injured as it was pressed between her teeth. She added that the hyoid bone was fractured, indicating strangulation.
Dr Attique said the postmortem examination was performed the same day Zainab’s body was recovered ─ on Tuesday ─ and an initial examination suggested she may have been dead for two to three days.
Zainab went missing on Jan 4, which means she may have been held captive by her abductors for two to four days before she was killed.
Although the MLO did not explicitly confirm that the minor was raped, findings in the autopsy suggest that she may have been sexually assaulted.
The minor’s hymen was ruptured, and there was also evidence to suggest the child had been sodomised. There was mud, fecal matter and blood found on her body, the MLO confirmed, and samples of semen, vaginal fluid 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 is the fourth such case she has seen in the seven months she has been at DHQ Kasur. Of the four cases, only one child survived the ordeal. The findings in all cases were similar to those in Zainab’s case.
Zainab goes missing, is found murdered
Zainab, 6, had gone to a religious tuition centre near her house in the Road Kot area last Thursday (Jan 4) from where she is believed to have been abducted. Her parents had been in Saudi Arabia performing Umrah, according to her family, and she had been living with a maternal aunt. Her parents returned to the country on Wednesday.
Soon after her abduction, her panicked family had received footage showing her walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road.
On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a heap of trash near the Shahbaz Khan Road.
Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days earlier.
A first information report had been registered against the disappearance of the girl on Jan 5, with the victim’s paternal uncle as the complainant in the case. Murder charges were added to the FIR on Jan 9, after the victim’s body was recovered.
The child’s body was buried on Wednesday evening after the chief of the army staff assured her family that the criminal would not go scot-free.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif offers his condolences to Zainab’s family in Kasur on Thursday. ─ Photo courtesy Punjab government official Twitter
Sharif also visited the victim’s family on Thursday morning to offer his condolences. He assured his support to Zainab’s father and promised that the culprits would be severely punished. The Punjab CM chaired a cabinet meeting on law and order, reviewed the primary reports on the Kasur incident and ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in the city.
Zainab’s father, Amin, is a supporter of Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri, who led the funeral prayers for his daughter. But Amin vowed not to bury his daughter until justice is served.
Widespread protests continue
Protests and a shutter-down strike which began in Kasur on Tuesday turned violent on Wednesday and continued Thursday as residents agitated against perceived police inaction over the alleged rape and murder of the child.
The protesters resolved not to relent unless the culprit was brought to justice. It was not long before the outrage spread across other cities and to social media, with the # JusticeforZainab hashtag becoming a rallying cry.
At least two people died of gunshot wounds on Wednesday when a group of 200 protesters armed with sticks and stones ─ led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah ─ attempted to storm the deputy commissioner’s office and clashed with police.
The Punjab government on Wednesday evening confirmed that six people, including four policemen and two civil defence personnel, who allegedly opened fire at the protesters were arrested.
Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif announced financial aid of Rs3m to the families of those killed by firing, and said that jobs would be given to two members of each family.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, while speaking about a policeman who had fired into a crowd of protesters outside the DC’s office yesterday, told DawnNews today: “We have taken the man that was straight shooting at the crowd into custody. Even in the video, it is evident that his superior is telling the man not to shoot at that angle and yet he continues to do so.”
As demonstrations ran into their third day, members of civil society staged protests and held vigils for the victim, with all condemning the tragedy in the strongest possible terms.
Protesters in Kasur agitated at the compound of PML-N MPA Naeem Safdar Ansari, where an enraged mob set cars and motorcycles parked in his compound on fire. Ansari was not at his compound at the time of the riots.
Students at Punjab University (PU) and other institutions staged protests against the 6-year-old’s murder at Kalma Chowk in Lahore. The protesters blocked Ferozepur Road and demanded that the government took appropriate action and ensured that justice is served.
The PU students also held funeral prayers in absentia for the victim.
Speaking to reporters at Parliament House, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah demanded that provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah and CM Shahbaz Sharif turn in their resignations for failing to provide protection to citizens.
The opposition has been clamouring for Sana and Sharif’s resignations for the Model Town incident. Shah today drew a comparison between the Model Town clashes and the riots in Kasur after some police officials opened fire on protesters who tried to storm the DC’s office.
“The Kasur incident is the height of savagery and the Punjab government is responsible for it,” he claimed. “This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in Kasur, but the government has failed to put a stop to these crimes.”
PPP’s Sherry Rehman submitted a call-to-attention notice in Senate today asking senators to pay attention to sexual assault, which appears to be prevalent in Kasur. The PPP also submitted a motion in the Parliament, asking for a debate on Zainab’s murder in order to ensure the protection of children in the country in future.
PTI lawmaker Murad Saeed has submitted an adjournment motion in the National Assembly, calling for the scheduled proceedings of the lower house to be postponed.
PPP, MQM-P, PML-F and PTI leaders also submitted a resolution in the Sindh Assembly condemning Zainab’s murder.
The National Commission for Human Rights blamed the Kasur district administration for the murder and said that had the NCHR recommendations been implemented, the latest incident would not have occurred.
“There were very solid and sound recommendations that had been forwarded, but it is very painful to see that no concrete steps have been taken by the district administration of Kasur to curb the recurrence of such grave incidents,” NCHR Chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan said.