Lahore: A mob angered over the recent rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl attacked a police station and a nearby government building in eastern Punjab province on Wednesday, triggering clashes that left at least two people dead and several injured, the police said.
The violence erupted in the city of Kasur hours before the funeral of Zainab Ansari, whose case has drawn wide public outrage.
The girl went missing last week while going to a nearby home for Quranic studies. Her parents, who were away at a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time, returned on Wednesday, landing at the Islamabad airport.
“We will not bury our daughter until her killers are arrested,” said the father, Ameen Ansari, as his wife sobbed.
Zainab’s body was found on Tuesday in a garbage bin, senior police officer Imran Nawaz Khan said. Police say she was abducted, raped and murdered. Officer Maqsood Ahmad said six girls were sexually assaulted in recent months in Kasur and that police were probing whether there was a connection in the cases.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa have taken serious notice of the tragic incident and vowed immediate justice to the parents of the deceased girl.
Activists on social media have condemned the government for failing to arrest those involved in the crime.
As the attack on the police station and the subsequent clashes unfolded Wednesday, local TVs broadcast footage showing police firing shots in the air and toward the stone-pelting mob, trying to disperse it. In one segment, an officer asks another to hold direct fire, after which the second officer is seen continuing to shoot at the protesters.
Also Wednesday, the Lahore High Court’s chief justice ordered a probe into Zainab’s killing.
Zulfiqar Hameed, the police chief in Kasur, refused to say whether the two people killed in Wednesday’s clashes had died from police gunshots. Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the police were trying to contain the violence and find and arrest those involved in the girl’s murder.
The incident triggered clashes that left at least two people dead and several injured. Adding fuel to the outcry, police opened fire at the protestors killing two more people and injuring several others on Wednesday. Residents of Kasur were protesting to demand immediate arrest of the rapist and murderer.
Soon after, CJP, Army Chief and Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif took notice of policemen accused of firing and District Police Officer Kasur was removed from his position pending an investigation on the police fire.
Taking notice of the heart wrenching incident, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, had taken notice of the incident and sought a report from the Inspector General of Police, Punjab, within 24 hours.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa condemned the “cold-blooded murder” and directed immediate “support to the civil administration to arrest the criminals and bring them to justice”, the army’s media wing said.
“We will not bury Zainab until the killer is caught”: father of Zainab
The victim’s parents, who were performing Umrah, reached Islamabad an hour after their daughter’s funeral in Kasur.
“We will not bury Zainab until the killer is caught,” the father of Zainab said. He alleged that the police did not cooperate in finding his daughter. “If the police would have acted immediately, the culprit would have been caught.”
Speaking to the media, he said, Zainab was a loving child who had a keen interest in religion. “She knew the five Islamic kalmas by heart.”
Kasur shop owners shut their businesses Wednesday to express their anger over Zainab’s slaying.
Firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri who took part in Ansari’s funeral service demanded the local government be replaced, saying it has “no right to remain in power after the killing of Zainab Ansari.”
In a speech to thousands of mourners, he blamed the Punjab chief minister, Shehbaz Sharif, for failing to “protect lives and honour of innocent girls” in the province.
Qadri also issued an ultimatum to Sharif and Sanaullah to step down by January 17 to avoid street protest.
Qadri is a staunch political rival of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party and he has led violent rallies in the capital, Islamabad, since 2014 after eight of his supporters were killed in anti-government rallies in Lahore, Punjab provincial capital.
Punjab Government spokesperson has said that a joint investigation team has been formed to catch culprits involved in rape and murder of seven-year-old girl in Kasur.
Speaking to a private TV channel, the spokesperson said that the accused will be identified with the help of CCTV footage and soon will be arrested. He said such incidents are frequently happening in Qasoor, however, the government will fulfil its responsibilities. He said six seven incidents have similarities and murderer seems to be psychopath.
He said that police found evidence in which the accused is taking the kid inside a bakery. He said this is a serious type of crime and will not be taken lightly. He said the culprits would be brought to justice.
Chief Justice Lahore High Court, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif have taken notice of the incident.
On Wednesday, protests erupted outside District Commissioner (DC) office in Kasur. Ariel firing was used by the police to disperse the crowd, resulting in at least two dead and several injured.
Activists on social media have condemned the government for failing to arrest those involved in the crime, triggering an outcry in Pakistan, making #JusticeForZainab a worldwide trend.
This is the 10th case of child rape and murder in Kasur since one year.