Muted relief in Kasur that ‘serial killer’ is off the streets

Updated 25 Jan 2018

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POLICEMEN escort Imran Ali as the suspect leaves an antiterrorism court on Wednesday.—AFP
POLICEMEN escort Imran Ali as the suspect leaves an antiterrorism court on Wednesday.—AFP

KASUR / LAHORE: Little Zainab’s house in Kasur was a site of much activity on Wednesday, a day after the Punjab government revealed that they had nabbed the culprit who had raped and murdered the eight-year-old girl as well as seven others.

The suspect was produced before an antiterrorism court on Wednesday, and was given into the custody of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) for 14 days on physical remand. The police are expected to conduct further interrogation and establish his involvement in other incidents of rape and murder of children in Kasur.

There was a sense of muted relief among the visitors thronging the victim’s house all day. Many said they were relieved that a serial rapist and murderer was off the streets, while others said they were glad that law enforcement agencies would now stop taking citizens into custody to obtain tissue samples for DNA profiling for the case.

Antiterrorism court remands suspect in 14-day custody of Counter Terrorism Department

An elderly man said there was no remedy for the humiliation an innocent person underwent when taken into custody on suspicion of raping and killing innocent children. “It is a nightmare that haunts you your whole life,” he said.

Speaking to Dawn, Zainab’s father Muhammad Amin insisted that the legal hurdles in the way of a public hanging should be removed so that the serial rapist and murderer could be made an example of. He added that Senator Rehman Malik had told him that an amendment in the law, pertaining to rape and murder of children, was almost final.

The victim’s mother, on the other hand, remained inconsolable. If the police had done their job earlier and arrested the culprit when the first cases were reported, Zainab and several other girls would still be alive, she said.

A police official told Dawn that they had first become suspicious about the involvement of 23-year-old Imran Ali, after they learned that he had changed his appearance soon after surveillance video footage, showing the kidnapper and the victim, was released. The suspect had left the district several times before he was eventually apprehended.

Another investigator said the suspect was arrested based on intelligence reports based on information gathered from locals. He said DNA profiling and polygraph tests had helped them zero in on the serial killer.

The law enforcement official dispelled the impression that the suspect’s mother had helped the police catch him, and added they had arrested the suspect from his house. The police had taken several of his family members into custody, and several cops were deputed on duty at his house.

He said that the suspect was a member of Naat councils and it was hard to expect such brutality from him. The policeman said that though the suspect had no spiritual compulsion to carry out the murders, he told them that he would always ask God for forgiveness after committing the crimes.

His fellow reciters at the Naat councils Imran was a member of, were quick to distance themselves from him. They described him as having a “strange” behaviour, and added that he rarely ever mixed with other Naat reciters. Some of them said that he was only interested in collecting the money he was owed at Naat gatherings, and quickly left after they ended. The suspect’s visiting card introduces him as “Fakhr-i-Punjab” and the “voice of your heart”, and includes his contact details for those interested in soliciting his services at Naat gatherings.

Court proceedings

On Wednesday, the suspect was brought to the antiterrorism court in Lahore with his face covered in an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC). Strict security measures were taken around the court premises.

“Where is his beard?” was the first question ATC judge Sajjad Ahmad asked after the investigation officer uncovered the suspect’s face. The judge noted that the CCTV footage had shown the suspect to have a bearded face.

Senior prosecutor Abdul Rauf Wattoo told the court that the suspect had shaved his beard off after committing the crime.

To another query, the prosecutor said that the police had arrested the suspect on the basis of DNA results which had matched the results of swabs taken from the victim’s body. He said the DNA had also established the suspect’s involvement in eight other incidents that had occurred in Kasur over the past several months. He added that one of his victims was still being treated at the Children’s Hospital.

The officer presented the report of the suspect’s polygraph test wherein, he said, the suspect had confessed to his crime. The judge then asked the prosecutor to explain the legal value of a polygraph test at the next hearing.

The officer told the court that the police were yet to ascertain the location where the suspect used to take his victims.

Responding to one of the queries, he told the court that the suspect used to lure children by offering them candies or money to gain their trust. The officer submitted a written request for 15-day physical remand of the suspect, however, the judge allowed him custody for 14 days.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2018