• SC gives 72 hours to Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing rape, murder of seven-year-old to bring investigation to its logical conclusion
  • Top court observes if police had taken the first case seriously, eight young girls would not have been raped, murdered
  • Victims’ parents appear before court seeking justice

LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Sunday gave 72 hours to the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab to bring the investigation to its logical conclusion as the parents of eight girls who had been raped and murdered in Kasur since 2015 appeared before the court and pleaded for justice.

Zainab was kidnapped on January 4 from near her aunt’s house in Kasur. Her body was discovered five days later from a garbage pile. The post-mortem report revealed that Zainab had been raped and murdered.

A special bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, resumed hearing its suo motu notice of the brutal murder at its Lahore Registry on Sunday.

At the last hearing on Tuesday, the court had summoned the JIT probing the incident as well as the head of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency.

As the bench settled in, Pakistan Bar Vice Chairman Ahsan Bhoon said the parents of Zainab and seven other girls, all victims of child abuse, are en route for the hearing.

Chief Justice Nisar then remarked that they will begin proceedings once the parents are here. Later, the children’s parents, including Zainab’s paternal uncle, appeared in court.

“Give us justice,” the parents ─ including those of Zainab─ pleaded before a three-member bench of the apex court.

As the hearing went underway, JIT head DIG Muhammad Idrees submitted a progress report and informed the court that Zainab’s was the eighth incident of child abuse in Kasur since June 2015.

Expressing displeasure, the chief justice remarked that the SHOs of the two police stations, in whose jurisdictions the incidents occurred for over two years, were not removed despite so many incidents.

The court observed that had the police been serious since 2015, so many cases would not have occurred.

The JIT head informed the bench further that on January 4, Zainab was going to her Khala’s [maternal aunt] house which was 300 metres away.

Dr Ashraf of the forensic agency said it is unclear from the CCTV footage if the girl in the video is indeed Zainab.

When the RPO told the court that DNA tests of 800 suspects have been conducted, the bench remarked that the police is pursuing a one-track investigation and must widen the scope of the probe beyond simply using DNA testing to track down the culprits.

“The DNA tests of 21 million people will have to be conducted if the investigations continue in this way,” the bench said.

The chief justice told Zainab’s family that they should inform the court of any complaints they may have.

“The JIT is doing satisfactory work,” the family members responded.

“We pray that the team is successful [in its probe],” they added.

The bench summoned the JIT and other parties in the case to appear in the court chambers for the next hearing.

RPO recounts events of Zainab’s ‘disappearance’:

During the hearing, RPO Idrees recounted the events of January 4, the day that Zainab went missing in Kasur.

He said that at 7pm that day, Zainab left her house to go to her aunt’s house ─ located at a distance of 300 kilometres ─ for Quran lessons.

According to the RPO, Zainab’s brother, Usman, would normally accompany her to their aunt’s house but did not do so on January 4.

He added that when Zainab did not return home, her family began searching for her and informed the police at 9:30pm.

Zainab’s body was recovered from a trash heap on Jan 9. The seven-year-old’s autopsy confirmed that she was strangled to death. It suggested that she had been raped before being killed.

He said that the culprit behind the seven cases of assault and murder of minor girls that preceded Zainab’s is also responsible for this latest case.

He added that all incidents have taken place within the jurisdiction of three police stations, with the first two incidents having taken place in the remit of the Saddar Division police station.

“So many incidents have taken place, what was the police doing?” the court questioned.

“The incidents took place repeatedly in the remit of two police stations and no one conducted an enquiry,” the chief justice observed.

No major headway has been made in the case since Zainab’s body was found, despite the Counter-Terrorism Department, Intelligence Bureau, Special Branch and Punjab Forensic Science Agency each being tasked with investigating the case.

The court also enquired into the treatment of Kainat, another victim of abuse in Kasur who is admitted to a hospital in Lahore. Addressing the medical superintendent of the hospital, the court remarked that if needed the young girl should be sent abroad for treatment.

Later, an in-camera hearing of the case was started on the request of the forensic agency’s head. The hearing was then adjourned.

Chief Justice Nisar had taken a suo motu notice of the case on January 10.

Earlier on January 15, the 36-hour deadline issued by the Lahore High Court (LHC) to police for arresting the suspects had also lapsed without any progress.

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