KASUR/LAHORE: Police shot dead two persons and injured five others during a protest outside the DC office on Wednesday against the abduction, rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl Zainab.
The minor, a resident of Road Kot, was kidnapped last Thursday as she was on her way to a tuition centre. Her body was found in a garbage pile near the Kashmir Chowk four days after her abduction on Tuesday. The initial post-mortem report showed that she was strangled to death after being raped multiple times.
It is the 12th incident of rape and murder of minor girls after abduction in Kasur, which prompted the violent protests, as various political parties and traders organisations gave a strike call for Wednesday. It is worth noting that the police have been unable to arrest the culprits involved in any of these incidents.
People started gathering at different points of the city early in the morning and blocked roads, burning and chanting slogans against the local administration, especially the police. They set a bus on fire and broke the windows of some other vehicles.
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters reached the Kutchery Chowk and tried to march towards the DC and DPO offices. Both the officers were present at their offices when the protesters entered in the premises of Kutchery.
To stop the protesters, the police opened fire, killing two – Muhammad Ali and Shoaib – on the spot. Five others – Umair, Afzal, Asad, Yasir, Shahbaz and Osama – were injured seriously, who were shifted to the DHQ Hospital, where the doctors referred them to Lahore.
Also on Wednesday, the funeral prayers of Zainab – led by PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and attended by thousands of people – were offered at the College Ground. Speaking on the occasion, Qadri declared the Punjab government responsible for such incidents and said the Model Town incident hadbeen repeated in Kasur.
The parents of Zainab, who were in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah, reached the country after the funeral and said they would not bury their daughter till the arrest of accused. However, she was laid to rest later in the evening.
On the other hand, the protesters placed the dead bodies of Ali and Shoaib on the road at the Steel Bagh Chowk. DPO Zulfiqar Ahmed reached the DHQ Hospital to control the situation but the protesters refused to hold dialogue and also tried to attack the DPO but security persons saved him from the enraged mob. The protest continued till the filling of this report as the people were demanding registration of case against the police officials over the firing incident. Rangers personnel were called in to control the situation.
The protesters had blocked roads and closed markets on Tuesday as well after Zainab’s body was found. Taking notice of the situation, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif constituted an inquiry committee (JIT) and suspended the DPO, making hims an OSD over his negligence in the Zainab case as well as Wednesday’s firing incident. "I want the culprits involved in this heinous crime behind bars. Those failing to perform their duties will be proceeded against," said Shahbaz.
The chief minister, who chaired a meeting on the issue, also sought a report from the Punjab IG and vowed to provide justice to the parents at every cost, saying he would personally monitor the investigation.
Responding to the parents' appeal, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa issued directives to extend full support to the civil administration to arrest the criminals. Similarly, Lahore High Court Justice Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah sought a report from the district and sessions judge and police officials.
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar also took notice of the incident and sought a report within 24 hours. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, talking to Geo News, claimed that the culprits would be arrested in the next few hours, as the police had released the sketch of a suspect. Picture form a CCTV video shows the girl with her alleged kidnapper.
He also challenged the narrative pertaining to police’s inaction in the case, adding that the police were in contact with the minor’s family constantly and conducting an investigation. When asked about lack of police action regarding similar cases in Kasur, Rana Sana remarked that all the cases were of different nature. “It’s not that there is just one suspect behind all the incidents whom the police have failed to arrest,’ he said.
The CCTV footage shows that the girl was walking with someone she knew. “It was either someone from her family, neighbourhood or servant,” the provincial law minister speculated. “The chief minister personally focuses on such cases,” he said, adding that the case would be sorted out soon. “The criminals will be caught, punished and taken to their logical conclusion.”
On the violent protests in Kasur, he remarked that the people should control their emotions in such situations and not cause harm to public property. “It is worrisome that some people are resorting to violence, arson. I request people to stay calm and exercise patience.”
Sheikhupura RPO Zulfiqar Hameed told the media in Kasur that it was not correct to term the incident negligence on the part of the police. “The minor's family provided the CCTV footage and neighbours also helped in the case but it is incorrect to think that police are being negligent,” Hameed said.
He remarked that reviewing footage from more than a dozen CCTVs installed in the area was an arduous task. Hameed said 96 samples of DNA had been sent for testing, adding that the police hope to find a DNA match in at least five cases.
Meanwhile, former premier Nawaz Sharif also spoke out against the incident, demanding swift punishment for the culprits. "The beasts who have disrespected our daughters should be punished immediately," he said in a statement.
He stressed that an example should be made of the beasts so that no one had the courage to engage in such repugnant acts. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz called for the culprits to not only be brought to justice but also made examples.