KASUR/LAHORE: Normalcy returned to Kasur as offices, markets and other businesses except the educational institutions reopened on Friday; however, the police are still unable to catch the accused involved in the Zainab rape-murder case.
The overall situation remained peaceful as the administration managed to convince traders, lawyers and leaders of religious parties not to protest on Friday. Zainab’s father too had asked the people not to disturb peace in the city.
The Rangers personnel took control of Kasur, while a heavy contingent of police from the Sheikhupura Region also reached the city. The law enforcers were deployed across the city and at the buildings of main institutions.
Violent protests had erupted after seven-year-old Zainab's rape-cum-murder – the 12th incident in the city of the same nature in which minor girls are murdered after being raped. During the protest, two people – Muhammad Ali and Shoaib – were killed in police firing outside the DC office.
On the other hand, Punjab government spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan said the suspect in the Zainab murder case is a serial killer who kidnaps and kills young girls. He made the claim on the basis of witnesses’ account at a press conference in Kasur along with Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood and Health Minister Khawaja Imran Nazir.
Malik Ahmed said it was a worrying fact that all the incidents occurred in the same area [approximately in two kilometres radius], but added that the suspect would soon be brought to book. He also condemned the death of two protesters due to police firing on Wednesday. The spokesperson said the Child Protection Bureau was dealing with the complaints regarding children’s abuse and the government would soon establish online criminal database of those involved in the practice. He said the government would educate the children about their rights through syllabus and how to behave and listen to unknown persons.
Speaking on the occasion, Mashhood said they were hoping for a breakthrough after arresting some suspects but their names would be disclosed after DNA test. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was monitoring the situation personally, he added.
Similarly, the police said the DNA tests results had confirmed that the same culprit raped and murdered eight children in Kasur, including seven-year-old Zainab. "One thing that is very clear [from DNA tests] is that in seven previous cases, and this is the eighth case, in which the same culprit carried out these horrific crimes," Punjab IGP Arif Nawaz Khan told Geo News.
He said the police had not been able to match that DNA to any of the suspects interrogated so far. “We investigated almost 227 people, of which we narrowed down to 67 suspects and carried out their DNA tests. But none of these results match those of the culprit," said the provincial police chief.
Separately, the IGP said several persons had been arrested and all evidence collected, including the statements of members of her family. He expressed these views during a visit to the house of Zainab. Head of JIT Multan RPO Muhammad Idrees, Sheikhupura RPO Zulfiqar Hameed and DPO Kasur Zahid Nawaz Marwat also accompanied him.
Also on Friday, former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira, Samina Khalid Ghurki, Jamshed Dasti and Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed visited the house of Muhammad Amin to condole the death of Zainab.
They blamed the PML-N government for negligence and promised full support to the family. They also demanded of the government to arrest the accused as early as possible otherwise protests would spread across Pakistan.
Earlier on late Thursday night, a meeting was held at the DCO office in which the Lahore commissioner, RPO Sheikhupura and other officials succeeded in making the traders to call off the strike. However, some political parties including PTI and Tehreek-e-Labaik asked people to stage protests after the Friday prayers. As a result, a crowd from Bhasar Pura and another group from on Ferozepur Road started protesting, but the police with the help of Rangers dispersed them.
The clerics in their Friday sermons condemned the tragic incidents, while the people from all walks of life pointed out that the IGP and the Home Department had announced to deploy Rangers on Tuesday, but it wasn’t implemented, which resulted in the angry crowd occupying the city. Meanwhile, the Punjab government changed the JIT head investing the Zainab case. A notification says Additional IG Abu Bakr Khuda Baksh has been replaced by Multan RPO DIG Muhammad Idrees.
On Friday, the JIT members reached the Kasur DPO office and held meetings with the local officials. Idrees was quoted as saying that the investigation into the case had begun and would be wrapped up soon.
Meanwhile, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah gave 36-hour deadline to the police for arresting the culprit and also sought record of all cases pertaining to children’s rape and killings pending before the courts across the province.
The IGP appeared before the court on short notice and shared the progress on the Zainab murder case. He furnished preliminary report and admitted police inefficiency and failure to identify and arrest the culprits.
The chief justice remarked that the incident was abhorrent and unacceptable. “All children are equal. The Kasur incident has shattered the society and everyone is in a state of shock,” he observed, hearing a petition moved by a local lawyer. Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan was the other member of the bench. “What else would be required to establish police failure that six incidents of children’ rape have occurred one after the other,” the bench questioned. “One DNA matched but why the police could not arrest that culprit,” the chief justice asked the IGP. “What is the purpose of police force if it is unable to control crimes?” he added. The bench also directed the DG Forensic Science Laboratory to appear in person and adjourned the hearing till Jan 15 [Monday].