Police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Hangu district on Wednesday claimed to have arrested a young man who is suspected of being behind the sexual assault and murder of an eight-year-old girl in the area.
The body of the victim, who was shot dead after the assault, was found in a deserted area of Thall Tehsil’s Sarokhel village on Sunday.
The minor girl's killer is her first cousin who confessed to his crimes during initial interrogation, Hangu District Police Officer (DPO) Shahid Ahmed said.
He said blood samples found on the victim's body had matched those collected from the 18-year-old suspect.
According to the DPO, the families of the victim — who had gone missing on Saturday night — and the suspect live together in a joint house.
"The suspect took the minor girl to a deserted area and attempted to rape her," the police officer told DawnNewsTV.
He said that the motive behind the killing was rape but whether rape had occurred would become clear after the forensic report of the samples is received from a laboratory.
DPO Ahmed revealed that after killing his minor cousin, the suspect had joined the girl's family members in searching for her through the night.
He also participated in a protest against the child's killing and attended her funeral, Ahmed said. Police also recovered a pistol from the suspect.
Police have shifted the suspect to Kohat for investigation.
A first information report was lodged under Sections 50 (exposure to seduction) of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection Act and 302 (punishment of qatl-i-amd) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A spokesperson for Shaheed Fareed Khan district hospital had on Sunday informed the media that an initial postmortem report showed the girl died after suffering bullet injuries and strangulation.
The girl’s relatives and villagers had held a demonstration and blocked the main road in Hangu’s Dawaba bazaar against her killing.
Over 10 children abused every day
A report by the NGO Sahil had revealed last year that reported cases of child abuse increased by 11 per cent in year 2018 compared to 2017, with more than 10 children suffering some form of abuse every day in Pakistan in 2018.
The report, titled 'Cruel Numbers 2018', had found that cases of child sexual abuse specifically witnessed a rise of a significant 33 per cent when compared with the reported cases of 2017.
One of the authors of Sahil's previous report, Mamtaz Gohar, had told Dawn that although child abuse cases were expected to fall in the wake of the Zainab rape and murder case, they had unfortunately increased.
“However, another view is that the Zainab murder case gave victims’ families courage to speak out rather than hide incidents of sexual abuse. The good thing is that, soon after that case, a drastic change has been noticed in the attitude and behaviour of families towards such cases,” he had said.