Police on Tuesday arrested nine suspects after the body of a nine-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped and strangulated to death, was found in Sindh's Khairpur district, officials said.
The minor girl, a resident of Laung Khan Larik area near Pir Jo Goth, had gone missing on January 9 and her body was found in a banana orchard near her home on Monday, according to Khairpur police.
Sukkur range Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Fida Hussain Mastoi told Dawn from the scene that the victim used to work as a housemaid at a house located at around a kilometre’s distance from her residence.
Her father is a motorbike rickshaw driver and has eight children, the officer said.
The girl often used to stay at her employers' house and it was in the knowledge of her parents, which is why they did not notice her absence until a day after she went missing. “But when she didn’t return home for two days they approached the family [where she used to work] and came to know that the girl had left two days earlier and did not stay there,” the DIG said.
When the parents mounted a search in the area, they found a part of her slipper and when efforts to locate her were accelerated, they found the utensils that she used to carry to bring food home.
“The parents eventually found her body in the nearby banana orchard,” DIG Mastoi added.
He said the footprints of two suspects were also found near the spot where the child's body was found.
The girl's postmortem was performed at Pir Jo Goth rural health centre (RHC), while a medical examination suggested that before being strangulated, she was subjected to rape, according to the DIG.
“Police have picked up nine suspects so far,” he said.
A case was registered against three unidentified persons under Sections 302, 376/2, 364-A and 201 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act on the complaint of the girl's father at Pir Jo Goth police station.
In the FIR, the complainant said that his daughter had left home on Jan 9 to work at a haveli in Hadal Shah village but did not return for two days. He said when inquired about her whereabouts, the owner of the house where she worked said the girl had not come to their house for the last three days.
The father said he then started a search with the help of relatives and found her body in the same village. He alleged that three people had subjected her to rape and then strangulated her in the orchard.
Meanwhile, Khairpur police sent samples of the girl and blood samples of the suspects for DNA testing to the Forensic & Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS).
8 children abused per day
In August, a report by the NGO Sahil had revealed that as many as 1,489 children, at least eight per day, were sexually abused in the first half of 2020 in the country. The victims included 785 girls and 704 boys.
The abusers were acquaintances of the victims or victims’ families in 822 cases while strangers were involved in 135 reported cases, according to the report titled 'Cruel Numbers'.
The report said that in 98 cases, the victims were between the age of one to five years; in 331 cases, they were between six and 10 years of age; while the largest number of cases (490) involved victims between 11 to 15 years of age.