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In keeping with a request made by 6-year-old Zainab's father to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the head of the joint investigation team (JIT) probing the rape and murder of the child was changed on Friday.

On Thursday, Zainab’s father, Muhammad Amin, an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Dr Tahirul Qadri, had expressed dissatisfaction with the nomination of the police officer heading the JIT and requested that he be replaced.

The father had shared his reservations on the nominated police officer belonging to the Ahmadi community. Ahmadis, a persecuted minority in Pakistan, were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

The Punjab Government issued a notice to this effect and Deputy Inspector Police Mohammad Idrees was appointed to lead the probe team.

Four senior officers, including Sheikhupura Regional Police Officer Zulfiqar Hameed, were appointed as the JIT's members. On Thursday, the team's scope was expanded as three more senior police officers were included.

'We are closer to the suspect now'

Leaders of the ruling PML-N and representatives of the Punjab Government addressed the media regarding the ongoing investigations into Zainab's rape and murder.

Malik Muhammad Ahmed Khan, a spokesperson of the provincial government, said that a clue has been obtained that will allow investigators to identify the suspect. He was referring to CCTV footage of the suspect.

He said that the forensic science laboratory will magnify a photograph of the suspect for the identification process. "We are closer to the suspect now," he added.

The spokesperson said that the investigations were not being based on hope, but rather on a scientific process and are being conducted by the police and the JIT.

He promised the media that all details of the investigation will be made available, adding that a daily press briefing will be held.

"We understand the passion, sorrow and anger of the protesters," the spokesperson said regarding the protests that had broken out in Kasur after Zainab's death.

Riots had broken out in Kasur after Zainab's body was found on Tuesday. Residents had agitated against perceived police inaction over the rape and murder of the child.

A day later, the protests turned violent as about 200 protesters ─ armed with sticks and stones and led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah ─ clashed with police. At least two people died of gunshot wounds on Wednesday. Six people, including four policemen and two civil defence personnel, were arrested.

"A law and order situation had emerged over the past two days," the spokesperson added. He said that the police had no right to shoot at protesters. "They should not have fired under any circumstances," he said.

Protests in Kasur are expected to continue for a third day on Friday.

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 army staff assured her family that the criminal would not go scot-free.

On Thursday, a postmortem examination conducted on the minor confirmed that Zainad had died of strangulation and was sexually assaulted before she was killed.