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Protests Spread Across Pakistan After Girl's Rape, Murder


Protesters have rallied in several Pakistani cities amid widespread public outrage over the rape and killing of a 8-year-old girl.

Lawyers and the women's wing of the religious Jamaat-e-Islami party marched through the northern city of Peshawar on January 11, while activists in the capital, Islamabad, also called for police to find and prosecute the killer of Zainab Ansari.

In Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, dozens of protesters blocked a major road.

"We need to start talking about sexual abuse openly," said actress Mahira Khan, who was among those who demonstrated in the southern port city of Karachi.

Pakistani civil society activists hold candles and a placard with an image of Zainab in Islamabad on January 11.
Pakistani civil society activists hold candles and a placard with an image of Zainab in Islamabad on January 11.

The rallies come a day after angry protesters attacked a police station in the town of Kasur in Punjab Province on January 10, resulting in the deaths of two people. The Punjab government said four police officers and two civil defense personnel who allegedly opened fire at the demonstrators were arrested.

Ansari’s body was found in a garbage bin in Kasur on January 9, four days after she was reported missing. Markets in the town remained shut on January 11.

Reuters cited police as saying Ansari was the 12th girl to be abducted, raped, and killed in the past year in the Kasur district.

Ansari’s case drew widespread outrage in Pakistan and attracted the attention of the country's civilian and military leadership.

The chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, visited Ansari's parents on January 11 to assure them that justice would be done, a provincial government spokesman said.

Sharif also announced 10 million rupees ($90,000) for anyone giving information about the kidnapper, spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan told Reuters.

Speaking after meeting with the Punjab chief minister, the father of the girl criticized police for being slow to respond when his daughter went missing.

A police official was quoted as saying that 26 people were in custody and being questioned.

More than 4,000 cases of sexual abuse were reported in Pakistan in 2016, up 10 percent on the previous year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan criminalized sexual assault, child pornography, and trafficking in 2016, after a pedophile ring was exposed in Kasur. Previously, only rape was criminalized.

Several police officials were transferred following the 2015 scandal and at least two people were convicted in connection with the case.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, Dawn, and Thomson Reuters Foundation
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