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‘Justice for Zainab’ turns into rallying cry

January 11, 2018

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ZAINAB’s body being carried during her funeral in Kasur on Wednesday.—AFP
ZAINAB’s body being carried during her funeral in Kasur on Wednesday.—AFP

KASUR: A day after the brutalised body of eight-year-old Zainab was found in a trash heap, violent demonstrations erupted across Kasur on Wednesday, leaving two people dead and three injured, as the police fired at the protesters trying to enter the district commissioner’s office.

The protesters resolved not to relent unless the culprit was brought to justice. It was not long before the outrage spread to social media, with #justiceforzainab hash­tag becoming a rallying cry.

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.

However, the relatives of the protesters, who had died in the riots, placed the bodies of the deceased on Ferozepur Road and were protesting against the police till the filing of this report.

Last Thursday, Zainab had left her house to go to a tuition centre when she was abducted by an unidentified man. The child’s parents had been in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and returned on Wednesday.

Two die in Kasur riots over girl’s rape, murder

The child’s family managed to obtain surveillance footage of a man walking with Zainab near Peerowala Road, within the jurisdiction of the Saddar police, leading to calls on social media for help in identifying the culprit, but there were no leads.

On Tuesday, a police constable deputed on special duty to find the girl, found her body in a pile of trash near Shahbaz Khan Road.

Following the recovery of her body, residents of Kasur took to the streets, while traders observed a complete shutter-down strike. Lawyers boycotted court proceedings and took out a rally, protesting against the alleged police inaction over the child’s rape and murder.

The protesters ransacked Saddar police station, the DHQ hospital, the DC’s office, the bar library, several shops at Katchery Chowk, and torched scores of vehicles. As the law and order situation spiralled out of control, the Punjab government approved the deputation of Rangers in Kasur.

The protesters expressed outrage over the rape and murder of several children in Kasur over the past several months. As many as 12 children have been raped and strangled to death in the city over the past year.

A group of 200 protesters led by Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah workers stormed the DCO’s office, while the police, trying to control the mob, shot at the protesters, injuring five of them.

Those who had been seriously shot — Muhammad Ali, a close relative of the victim’s family, and Waris Ali, a student — succumbed to their injuries at the DHQ hospital.

Upon hearing that the two protesters had passed away, a large crowd made its way to the DHQ hospital and ransacked the emer­gency and gynaecology wards.

They caught hold of the policemen trying to stop them from smashing the equipment and windows of the hospital, and injured six of them. As nurses and doctors locked their rooms from inside, a heavy police contingent arrived at the hospital. Adviser to the Punjab government Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan also arrived at the hospital seeking to negotiate with the protesters.

However, demonstrations erupted at over a dozen points in the city and members of families who had lost their children in similar incidents joined the protests. A group protesting near a new bus terminal on Ferozepur Road torched a bus.

The child’s father, Muhammad Amin, supports Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri. Leading the funeral prayers for Zainab on Wednesday, Dr Qadri said the murder of innocent children was a failure of the state, and the rape and killing of Zainab was humiliation of the entire humanity. Following the prayers, the protests resumed, this time with far more ferocity.

The grieving father had announced earlier that Zainab’s body would not be buried till those responsible for murdering and raping his child were arrested. He had also said that the county’s rulers were sitting in Jati Umra while innocent children were being killed.

Investigations SP Mirza Qadoos Baig told Dawn that Zainab had been targeted by a serial killer. He said that experts from Lahore had been called in to investigate the matter.

B- Division Police have arrested two constables — Rashid Ali and Muhammad Amin — and two officials of civil defence — Amanat Ali and Abid Hussain — for shooting at the protesters. The Kasur DPO has been suspended while Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted a joint investigation team comprising senior police officers, to look into the serial rapes and murders. Meanwhile, an 11-year-old boy from Dholan village in neighbouring Pattoki, has been missing since Tuesday.

The child, a student of grade six, has not been home since Tuesday evening.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2018