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Girl's death leads to protests

January 11, 2018

Angry at alleged police inaction in the investigation of a 7-year-old's rape and murder, two people were killed during protests in the Pakistani city Kasur. But Zainab Ansari isn't the only girl to have died there.

Kasur residents carry the body of a girl during her funeral in Punjab Province
Image: Getty Images/AFP/G. Ahmed

Clashes between police and people protesting lack of progress in finding those responsible for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari left two people dead in Pakistan on Wednesday.

Zainab disappeared last week while returning to her aunt's house from a Quranic studies class; her body was found in a pile of garbage on Tuesday near her home in Kasur in Pakistan's Punjab province. She was the eighth child to have been found raped and murdered in Kasur in the last year, according to a police official anonymously quoted by AFP news agency.

Read more: Pakistan child rape and murder case just 'tip of the iceberg'

Read more: Calls for tougher laws amid Pakistan's child abuse scandal

Zainab's murder sparked protests on Wednesday outside a Kasur police station, where demonstrators threw rocks at police and authorities fired live rounds at the crowd. Four police officers accused of firing at protesters were in custody and being questioned, according to the Punjab government.

Justice for Zainab

The girl's parents, who had been on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, flew back to Pakistan on Wednesday and said that while a funeral ceremony was held on Wednesday, they would not bury Zainab until her killer has been arrested.

"We are now afraid of letting our children leave the home," her father, named as Amin Ansari, said in televised comments. "How was our child kidnapped from a busy market?"

"I want justice! I want justice!" Zainab's mother cried, surrounded by reporters at Islamabad's international airport.

A spokesman for the military tweeted that the army chief called for "all-out support to civil administration to arrest the criminals and bringing them to exemplary justice."

#JusticeForZainab became a top Twitter hashtag in the country as politicians, celebrities and many others issued calls for action while shops and other businesses in Kasur closed in protest.

"The beasts who have disrespected our daughters should be punished immediately," said former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Opposition leader Imran Khan called on police to investigate quickly, writing on Twitter: "The condemnable and horrific rape of the minor once again exposes how vulnerable our children are in our society."

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai also said the government needed to do more to protect children. 

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah appealed for calm, saying the provincial government had "taken notice of the case."

"People need to keep their emotions in check and not aggravate the situation," he said, adding that "a child's safety is its parents' responsibility."

Read more: Pakistani rape film pushes social boundaries

Not Kasur's first child abuse scandal

The city of Kasur came to the world's attention in August 2015, via a child abuse and extortion scandal involving at least 280 children who were filmed while being sexually abused by a gang of men. The men then blackmailed the children's parents by threatening to release the videos.

Regarded as Pakistan's largest child abuse scandal, it came to light after victims' parents clashed with police, accusing authorities of failing to prosecute the case.

@dwnews - Pakistani rape survivor campaigns for women's rights

sms/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)