Months before the rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab Amin sparked widespread outrage across the country, the sexual assault and murder of five-year-old Iman Fatima too had shaken the notorious Punjab town of Kasur.

Kasur police had acted rather swiftly then, however, arresting a 21-year-old man named Mudassir barely hours after Iman's body was found in February 2017.

But hours after he was taken into custody, Mudassir was killed in an alleged police 'encounter', reportedly after he tried to escape detention.

New details that have emerged almost a year later suggest that Mudassir was allegedly murdered by police, since Iman's murderer is said to be the same as the suspect who took Zainab's life.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Tuesday had addressed a press conference in Lahore to formally announce the arrest of a key suspect in the Zainab rape and murder case. The suspect, based in Kasur, is accused of being a serial killer who raped and murdered seven girls over the course of two years — Iman being one of them.

The DNA of the suspect arrested following Zainab's murder has also matched the samples collected from the crime scene of Iman's murder, Dr Muhammad Ashraf Tahir, director general of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA), told DawnNews on Thursday.

A total of 171 DNA samples, including Mudassir's, had been collected after Iman's murder, however, Mudassir's DNA had not matched samples gathered from the crime scene.

According to the forensics report, it was the alleged killer of Zainab who had also sexually assaulted Iman before murdering her.

Iman's father while talking to DawnNews on Wednesday said he was called by police to hear Mudassir confess to his daughter's murder at the time. And while he said Mudassir confessed to the crime back then, he now believes Mudassir was "killed wrongly" after emergence of DNA data in Zainab's case.

Mudassir's family demands justice

Mudassir's case was first reported by the BBC last week after a Newsnight investigation revealed that Iman's killer was the same as the one behind Zainab's murder.

A senior police officer had told the BBC that after Mudassir was taken into custody, he confessed to killing Iman before he was shot dead while "trying to escape".

Mudasir's family, however, told BBC they believed police knew he wasn't the killer but killed him extrajudicially because they had been unable to trace the real culprit.

While talking to DawnNews, the family said Mudassir was taken away on the same evening Iman was murdered; they claimed that no DNA test had been conducted before Mudassir was killed.

Kasur police officials told the BBC that Iman's five-year-old cousin Adeel, who she was reportedly playing with when abducted, had identified Mudasir as the suspect.

But Mudassir's family say they await justice over his death to this day.

"I feel as if I have lost everything. They killed my son," his mother told the BBC. She said her family had to move out of Kasur after they were treated as pariahs by the neighbours following Iman's murder.

When confronted with the revelations, Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan told the BBC an inquiry would be held to determine any violations and those responsible for any "extrajudicial killing won't be spared".

Lack of DNA test facilities in Peshawar

In a separate development, it has emerged that the murder of a four-year-old Mardan girl earlier this month would have been solved by now if the Forensic Science Laboratory in Peshawar had been functional, officials told DawnNews.

The child was found murdered in a sugarcane field near her house in Mardan on January 14. Local authorities and doctors claimed that the toddler was assaulted before she was strangled to death.

The DNA samples gathered from the crime scene were sent to PFSA lab in Lahore and KP police are still awaiting results of the test, which take around 10-15 days to be finalised.

The only forensic lab in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa established in 2014 still remains non-functional due to lack of DNA testing kits. The government had paid $21,000 to a private company, H.A Shah and Sons — the only DNA testing kits suppliers in Pakistan — for 600 testing kits that were never received.

The company now claims that all its supplies, that are imported, had been purchased by the Punjab government for investigating the Zainab murder case.

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