LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) – Protests broke out across Pakistan on Thursday after the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl in a district south of Lahore, due to public anger at what is seen as the authorities’ failure to investigate such cases.
It is the 12th such murder in the town of Kasur in a year, and has raised concern that a serial killer may be on the loose.
Two people were killed on Wednesday when police fired at angry protesters in Kasur, and a local resident said schools, offices, and markets remained shut in the town on Thursday.
Demonstrations were held in all cities between Faisalabad in the northeast down to Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi.
In Lahore, the provincial capital of the state where Kasur is located, protesters blocked a major road connecting the two, causing traffic between them to be suspended.
Police recovered the body of Zainab Ansari from a garbage dumpster in Kasur on Tuesday, four days after she was reported missing.
The chief minister of Punjab province, Shahbaz Sharif visited Ansari’s parents to assure them that the perpetrators would be apprehended soon, a provincial government spokesman said.
“(Sharif) has announced Rs 10 million ($90,000) for anyone giving information about the kidnapper,” Punjab government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan told Reuters. He said it could not be ruled out that the murders involved a serial killer.
A police official speaking on condition on anonymity said two of Ansari’s relatives had been interrogated and 26 locals are currently in custody and being questioned. He added that police are waiting for forensic evidence to be collected and analyzed.
Ansari’s family doubts justice will be done.
“We don’t have any expectations from police, as we gave proof to police including the CCTV footage, but they could do nothing,” her uncle Hafiz Muhammad Adnan told Reuters.
Adnan said the kidnapper waited to dump the body after search parties took a break after four days of looking.
“It appears as if the kidnapper is a local who developed familiarity with Zainab to take her along, probably telling her that he would take her to her parents,” he said.
A number of police officials have been transferred out of the region for failing to investigate complaints of missing children since 2015, when authorities uncovered what they said was a pedophile ring linked to a prominent local family.
At least two people have been convicted in connection with that case, in which authorities say hundreds of children in the district were abused.
Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Hugh Lawson