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January 22, 2018

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Zainab case: SC dissatisfied with police probe, gives 72 hours deadline

LAHORE: A three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Sunday granted 72-hour deadline to the Punjab Police to reach a conclusion and arrest the culprit behind the rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab of Kasur.

The bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, held the hearing of suo motu notice into the brutal incident at the SC Lahore registry on weekly holiday.

Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench. The CJ ruled that delay in tracing the murderer of the minor girl would not be tolerated. Police have to come up with some conclusion swiftly, he said.

“We represent the nation as well. We are fully aware of public sentiments and concerned over the tragic incident," the CJ remarked.

At the outset of the hearing, Regional Police Officer (RPO), Multan, Muhammad Idrees, who is heading the joint investigation team, submitted the progress report to the bench and admitted that police had been unable to track down the killer so far.

He informed the court that Zainab’s rape and murder was the 8th incident of similar nature that had taken place in Kasur since June 2015. These incidents occurred within the limits of three police stations and DNA test results indicated that one culprit was involved in all these cases, he explained.

Several similar incidents had taken place in the same city; what had police done so far to arrest culprits? the chief justice asked.

The incidents took place within the jurisdiction of two police stations, but no one bothered to carry out an inquiry, he observed.

The RPO told the court that the DNA tests of 800 suspects had been conducted since the girl's body was found but no headway has been made in the case.

Expressing dissatisfaction over the progress in the probe into the rape-cum-murder of the minor girl, another member of the bench Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik remarked, "The police are pursuing a one-track investigation and must widen the scope of the probe beyond simply using DNA test to track down the culprits. The DNA tests of 21 million people will have to be conducted if the investigations continue in this way," he said.

“Had the police worked efficiently and diligently in 2015, the situation would not have worsened to this extent," he added.

Justice Malik said police had narrowed down its investigation to DNA. The investigators should use other methods to probe the case from different angles. The police should probe the case in multiple traditional ways, he added.

He asked the JIT head to work on minor aspects of the case as all the incidents took place in the evening, etc.

Mr Idrees assured the court that investigators had been probing the case from all angles. Additional Inspector General of Punjab Police Abubakar Khuda Bakhsh informed the court that over 1,000 suspects had so far been interrogated and DNA tests of around 800 people were carried out, but their results could not match that of the culprit.

Punjab Forensic Science Agency Director General Dr Ashraf Tahir also appeared before the court and said four footages of likely killer had been secured so far but all of them are of inferior quality.

The CJ observed that it would be a failure of both the government and the police if the perpetrator was not brought to book. He said the entire nation was grieved over the killing of the minor and directed the police to ensure that the culprit responsible for her death would be arrested.

"An unspeakable crime has been committed against an innocent girl," CJ Nisar said and ordered the IG of police to arrest the culprit within 72 hours.

Dr Tahir, however, expressed willingness to share some information about the case which he couldn’t tell in the courtroom, prompting the bench to conduct the hearing in camera.

The chief justice summoned the police officer and others to his chamber for further hearing of the case. Later, a short order was issued, directing all stakeholders to do the needful within 72 hours.

The parents of the eight girls who have been raped and murdered in Kasur since 2015 appeared before the bench and pleaded for justice.

Zainab had gone missing while going for tuition near her house in Kasur city, on January 5. Her parents had been in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and she had been living with her maternal aunt.

After her abduction, the footage showed her walking with a stranger near the Peerowala Road.

During the course of hearing, the head of the Children's Hospital also told the court that lone survivor of rape incident, Kainat, is under treatment at the hospital but she cannot speak or travel as she was suffering from brain injury. The CJ asked him for her treatment aboard. The doctor replied that it would be decided after the report of her MRI test.

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