The brutal rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Pakistan has spread mass anxiety in the nation.
In Karachi panic-stricken citizens attacked a man over suspicion that he had molested a little girl. The guard of a private school became the target of mob violence until he was taken into custody by police to save his life, police officials said. Enraged residents also wrecked classrooms of the school in the Ebrahim Hyderi neighbourhood of the city.
The mob violence took place following the rape and murder of Zainab Ansari in the Kasur district of Punjab province, which triggered countrywide protests.
“When people start to feel that police cannot provide them justice, they take the law into their own hands. This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan today,” Marium Khan, a child psychologist, told Gulf News.
The situation remained tense for about two hours around the school until police took the man into custody for investigation.
“A police team was dispatched to the school after police received reports that the gatekeeper had attempted to rape a minor girl,” Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Rao Anwar was quoted as saying by The News. SSP Anwar clarified that preliminary investigation showed reports of the “alleged rape attempt were baseless.”
According to the police official, it all began when the girl’s father took her to hospital as she was complaining of pain, which doctors termed as an infection. The father told police that he feared the school guard might have grabbed his daughter’s arm, after which he advised the school principal to install a CCTV camera at the main school gate.
This conversation was misheard by a neighbourhood woman, Jameela, who apparently believed that the guard had something to do with the girl’s health condition. Public outcry by the woman gathered the local people, who were already alert and panicked after Zainab’s case. “The mob then attacked the gatekeeper and went inside the school, where they ransacked windowpanes and furniture,” SSP Anwar was quoted as saying by Pakistani media.
After the incident, Directorate of Inspection Registration of Private Institutions Sindh (DIRPIS) visited the school and held meetings with the parents, principal and residents.
The father of the Karachi girl said that he did not ask anyone to attack the school nor did he know about the people who ransacked the building, according to DIRPIS Registrar Rafia Mallah. The school’s principal endorsed the father’s statement and added that she deliberately handed over the school gatekeeper to police to save his life.
“People have to be alert but very careful too because the violent mob could have killed an innocent guy over a suspicion,” said Samia Shah, a worried mother in Karachi.
Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal confirmed that the little girl was not subjected to a criminal assault and directed the Additional IG Karachi to suspend the local police officer who “misrepresented the incident as an assault against the girl”. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah also took notice of the incident and issued orders for an immediate inquiry.
In a related statement, the Adviser to the CM on Social Welfare, Shamim Mumtaz, revealed that more than 900 children went missing from Sindh in 2017. While the authorities managed to recover 650 of them, 250 are still missing.