World News

2 Die as Pakistanis Protest Over Girl’s Killing

Posted January 10, 2018 4:11 p.m. EST

ISLAMABAD — Hundreds of protesters, enraged over the killing of a young girl, clashed with police in eastern Pakistan on Wednesday after surrounding the office of a senior district official and demanding justice. At least two people were killed when police opened fire on protesters in the city of Kasur, officials said.

Police officials said they had opened fire to safeguard public property after protesters tried to storm the office.

Protesters said they were outraged over the police’s inability to stop a series of child killings in the district. Police say at least 12 children have been killed within a radius of about a mile in the past two years in Kasur.

The violence came a day after the body of a girl, Zainab Amin, whose father said she was around 7, was found on a pile of garbage near a busy road in the district of Kasur. The city is about 30 miles from Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.

News of the killing, and unconfirmed reports that the girl had been raped, swept through Pakistani news programs and social media, and nationally known politicians demanded her killer be found.

Zainab had been missing since Jan. 4 and was last seen on her way to her aunt’s house to take a Quran class, said Muhammad Adnan, the girl’s uncle, according to a statement filed with police.

As her distraught family searched for her, local authorities released CCTV footage that showed her walking with a man along a road in the evening, holding his hand and showing no apparent signs of fear.

Authorities said she had been dead three or four days when her body was found on Tuesday. Police officials said it appeared she had been strangled, but that they had not yet determined whether she had been raped.

Her parents had gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Umra, a religious pilgrimage. They returned to Pakistan on Wednesday, and while talking to the local news media at the Islamabad airport, her father, Muhammad Amin, accused police of not cooperating in the investigations. He said parents in the district had been living in fear for the last two years as instances of child abuse and abductions rose.

Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, on Wednesday afternoon ordered a high-level inquiry into the latest killing, saying he was “deeply pained.”

As the atmosphere in Kasur remained tense and public outrage over the killing rose across the country, Sharif removed the district police chief.

Rights activists accuse Pakistani authorities of having long failed to protect children, particularly in Kasur. In 2015, the district made grim headlines when police arrested a group of men accused of abusing hundreds of children and selling videos of the acts.

Pakistan has a dismal record on child protection. Sahil, a local nongovernmental organization, reported that at least 100 children had been killed after sexual violence in 2016. Punjab, the most populous of the country’s four provinces, had the worst record that year, with 2,676 cases of child abuse reported in the region.

Elected officials in Kasur were inundated with phone calls about Zainab’s killing after social media users posted the officials’ contact information.

Sarah N. Ahmad, a Lahore-based urban planner and rights activist, said she had called several officials to urge them to do more to safeguard children. Ahmad said the politicians had expressed disappointment and shock, but she was unsatisfied.

“Enough with empty, toothless promises,” she said.