Protests in Pakistan over inaction on rape and murder of girl, seven

Roads have been blocked and cars burned in Kasur as outcry grows over death of child found in a rubbish dump on Tuesday

Roads have been blocked and vehicles burned in the Pakistani city of Kasur as hundreds of people protested against police inaction in the case of a seven-year-old girl who was raped and murdered last week.

The body of the girl, Zainab, was found in a rubbish dump on Tuesday. She was the 12th child to have been murdered in the past year within a 1.2-mile (2km) radius of Kasur, a city in the province of Punjab scarred by years of paedophilia scandals.

On Wednesday two protesters were shot dead by police, and on Thursday a company of military police entered the city as residents attacked the homes of politicians.

“We want justice and the real culprit presented before us,” Zainab’s uncle, Gulam Rasul, told the Guardian. He said he feared that police, under pressure to resolve the matter and send protesters home, might shoot someone else.

Mahira Khan, an actor and one of many public figures to have echoed the sense of anguish across Pakistan, demanded an example be made of the culprit that “scares anyone to even think of doing something like this again”.

Kiran Naz, a newsreader on local television, delivered the afternoon bulletins with her eight-year-old daughter on her lap in a protest against violence against children.

omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi)

Not often that you see a TV news anchor bring her own child to her news cast – @SAMAATV ‘s Kiran Naz did precisely that to make a point about how she felt as a mother in Pakistan #JusticeForZainab #Justice4Zainab pic.twitter.com/6XMXQJmfzV

January 10, 2018

Zainab, the youngest of four children, was last seen on 4 January. She was apparently abducted outside a religious tuition centre where she was a student, 100 metres from her home

Kasur police have since released a grainy CCTV image of the child walking hand-in-hand with her suspected killer, whose back is turned to the camera, a little further down the road.

On Wednesday an autopsy revealed that Zainab was raped and strangled to death. According to local media, DNA collected from her body matched that from other recent cases in which the bodies of raped and murdered children aged five to eight were dumped in parks, drains and other public spots.

Zainab’s mother and father were on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time of her abduction.

Arriving at Islamabad airport on Wednesday, Ameen Asari, Zainab’s father, said relatives had informed him that police “didn’t do anything” when Zainab was first reported missing. Instead they would “come, have food and leave” as “friends and family spent day and night looking for my daughter”, Asari alleged.

“In Pakistan, security is for leaders and we are just common insects,” he said.

Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab, visited the family to pay his respects on Thursday, promising to install CCTV cameras across the city. His administration also offered a reward of $90,000 (£66,000) to anyone who supplied information leading to an arrest.

Protesters
Protesters with posters calling for justice. Photograph: Rehan Khan/EPA

Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a firebrand cleric whose protest camp on an Islamabad motorway last month brought the capital to a standstill, led the funeral prayers for the two killed protesters. Residents in the city are angry about what they consider to have been years of government stonewalling in the face of rampant child abuse.

In 2015 a paedophile gang in the nearby village of Hussain Khanwala was found to have abused up to 280 children over almost a decade. The gang forced children to perform sex acts on camera and sold the footage or used it to blackmail their families.

A report by the National Commission for Human Rights found police guilty “not only of criminal negligence but connivance” and had deferred to gang members, who came from an influential local family.

The scandal – the largest of its kind in Pakistani history – prompted parliament to outlaw the making of child pornography. But Ansar Sajjad, the regional coordinator of the anti-abuse charity Sahil, said the government had made “more promises [in terms of child protection] that were not fulfilled. That is why we are seeing so much problems.”

Police have detained two suspects in the Zainab case in Kasur and said the investigation was ongoing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com