• Pakistani girl, 7, was raped and killed and the country seeks #JusticeForZainab

    By: Fiza Pirani, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Updated:

    Protesters in the Pakistani city of Kasur took to the streets for the second day Thursday over the rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Amin, whose body was uncovered on a pile of garbage this week, days after she was reported missing.

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    According to an autopsy report, Zainab was sodomized and strangled to death. Dr. Quratulain Atique, who did the autopsy, told CNN that there were torture marks on her face and her tongue was “crushed between her teeth.”

    It’s possible she had been dead for two to three days before she was found in garbage 100 meters from her home Tuesday, Atique said. She was buried Thursday at her ancestral graveyard in Road Kot.

    Zainab, whose parents were out of the country on a pilgrimage when their daughter was kidnapped while staying with her aunt on Jan. 4, was the 12th girl to be sexually assaulted and killed in the past two years from the 2-kilometer district in Kasur, Pakistan. The city is about 30 miles from Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

    Surveillance video given to police by family shows Zainab being led away from the home by a man.

    According to Australian news agency ABC, Eman Fatma, 4; Fauzia, 11; Noor Fatma, 7; Ayesha Asif, 5; Laiba, 9; Sana Omar, 7; and Kainat Batool, 8, were among the past victims.

    At least five of the murders can be linked to one person, who is the focus of a manhunt involving hundreds of law enforcement officials, police said. At least 90 potential suspects have had their DNA tested.

    “For the last two years, we are living in fear, parents are scared to send their kids outside,” Zainab's father Muhammad Amin Ansari told reporters.

    Mumtaz Gohar, senior program officer at Pakistani news agency Sahil, told The Express Tribune that in 2017, there were a total of 129 cases of child assault reported from Kasur. Thirty-four were abductions, 23 were rapes, 19 involved sodomy, 17 were attempted rapes, six abduction and rapes, and four abduction and gang rapes.

    In 2015, an investigation into the Kasur district uncovered a major child sexual abuse scandal involving up to 25 men who blackmailed children into making sex videos between 2009 and 2014, according to CNN.

    Pakistan's National Commission on Human Rights claimed that it published a report into widespread child abuse in Kasur following the 2015 scandal, but its findings were ignored by the district.

    “The present incident is an example of the ineptitude of the authorities which have failed to address the issue in an appropriate manner to curb its future recurrence,” the NCHR’s reports stated

    Demonstrators flooded the streets Wednesday and Thursday following Zainab’s death this week, many angry that authorities in the Punjab province have done little to keep their kids safe. Residents chanted, “We want the perpetrators brought to justice,” ABC reported.

    But the protests quickly turned violent. Some demonstrators set vehicles on fire, destroyed buildings and at least two people died in clashes with police.

    On Thursday, the hashtag #JusticeForZainab spread online as Twitter users around the globe expressed outrage and demanded justice. Some shared photos and video of the 7-year-old.

    Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize, also spoke out about the crime.

    According to CNN, on Thursday, Punjab's Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif demanded police find and arrest Zainab’s killers in the next 24 hours and offered a $10 million rupee bounty (equivalent to $90,000) to anyone who helps.

    Malik Ahmad Khan, a spokesman for the Punjab government, said four people have been caught in connection with the other 11 cases. And DNA test results match six of them, he said.

    Early evidence, officials said, suggests the perpetrator was a family acquaintance, The Washington Post reported. But some lawmakers seemed to imply that Zainab's family was partly to blame.

    “A child's safety is its parents' responsibility,” Rana Sanaullah, the law minister of Punjab, told the newspaper Dawn.

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