The chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) in Pakistan reportedly accused the Punjab government and police department of negligence for failing to arrest a yet to be identified “serial killer” accused of raping and murdering at least eight girls between the ages of five and eight since 2015.
“All victims were between the age of five and eight, they would go missing for few days prior to their bodies being recovered from abandoned places such as under a construction house, park, or a drain,” reveals the Express Tribune. “All previous victims were also found strangled to death.”
A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has reportedly investigated 247 potential culprits but has yet to publicly identify a prime suspect although 10 have been placed on a short list.
“If the police would have acted immediately, the culprit would have been caught,” declared Anees Ansari, the father of the killer’s latest victim, Zainab Ansari, who went missing on January 4, suggesting that the pace of the police department’s investigation allowed the culprit to get away, reports the Daily Mail.
“LHC chief justice said that the police and government should accept the fact that they had been negligent. If steps had been taken in 2015 then Zainab’s murder would never have taken place,” reports the Express Tribune, referring to Zainab.
Punjab law enforcement has published CCTV clips showing Zainab, believed to be between six and eight years old, walking alongside her alleged assailant in the wake of the local police department’s failure to catch the killer.
The Daily Mail notes:
[Police] have also released a third clip, showing a lone man walking down a street, believed to be the same man as in the second clip. The police’s new releases have been criticized, as the appearance of the man in the new footage seems different from that of the man seen taking Zainab in earlier release. However, with police questioning dozens of people in Kasur, it is thought they may pursue a lead that Zainab’s killer did not act alone. Zainab was kidnapped on her way to a Koran recital while her parents were in Mecca on a religious pilgrimage.
Pakistani authorities reportedly failed to abide by a 36-hour deadline implemented by LHC for the arrest of the murderer after his latest victim.
The Express Tribune notes:
Despite protesting multiple times regarding the various incidents of rape and subsequent murder of young children in the city, after Zainab’s death, the people of Kasur [city in Punjab province’s Lahore region] voiced their anger and outrage by burning [tires] in the city.
On January 11, a crowd of protesters gathered in front of DHQ Hospital and demanded the public flogging and hanging of “the monster responsible.”
Police officers reportedly killed at least two protesters when they tried to force their way into a government building in Lahore’s city of Kasur, located in Punjab province.
“Up to 1,000 protesters are in the streets,” said Muhammad Sajid, a spokesman for the Kasur police, according to the Daily Mail.
“They have thrown stones on the buildings of the government hospital, police and deputy commissioner’s office. … Security is deployed and trying to control the situation,” added the spokesman.
Echoing the chief LHC judge, the protestors accused police of failing to act in response to the child murders.
In 2017 alone, authorities in Kasur alone recorded a total of 129 cases of child assaults, including 34 kidnappings; 23 rapes; 19 acts of sodomy; 17 attempted sexual assaults; six abduction and rapes; as well as four abduction and gang-rapes; reports the Express Tribune.
The 451 cases of child abuse in the Punjab region in 2015, which included 285 in Kasur alone, marked an unprecedented number of incidents. In 2016, authorities recorded total of 141 child abuse cases in Kasur.
“Vani,” which means child marriage often by force, is reportedly common in Pakistan “to build and strengthen alliances, settle disputes or pay off debts.”
Although Pakistani law enforcement prohibits sexual relations with children under the age of 16, most families avoid the law and marry off their children—authorities rarely intervene in these family matters.