Violent protests erupt over rape, murder of minor girl in Pakistan

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LAHORE, Pakistan — A mob angered over the recent rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl attacked a police station and 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 Qur’anic studies. Her parents were away for Umrah in Saudi Arabia at the time.

Ansari’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.

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 TV 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.

Zulfiqar Hameed, the police chief in Kasur, said two people were killed in the clashes but refused to say whether they 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 killing of the girl.

Shop owners shut their business in Kasur on Wednesday to express their anger over the killing of the girl.

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, Shahbaz Sharif, for failing to “protect lives and honor of innocent girls” in the province.

Qadri also issued an ultimatum to Sharif and Sanaullah to step down by Jan. 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.

Meanwhile, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and the Senate Standing Committee on Interior took notice of the incident and ordered the Punjab police to take swift action.

Sharif directed the inspector general of Punjab to bring the culprits to task as soon as possible and to submit an investigation report on the matter.

Senate Committee Chairman Rehman Malik called the incident unforgivable and ordered that the Punjab police submit a report on the matter within the next five days.

Malik also said that the Inspector General of Punjab should personally investigate the matter and treat it as a challenge.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl on Wednesday presented adjournment motions in the Senate and the National Assembly to discuss the failure of the government and local law enforcers to recover Zainab.

“The tragedy happened because the girl was not recovered in time,” the adjournment motion claimed. “This is not the first time such an incident has taken place in Kasur.”

The District Bar Association (DBA) has announced a boycott of court proceedings today to express solidarity with the bereaved family and build pressure on the law-enforcement agencies to arrest the killer. — Agencies


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