Lahore: A Pakistani official says a man suspected in the rape and killing of a 8-year-old girl has been arrested in a breakthrough in a case that has stirred outrage across the country.
The child, Zainab Ansari, was brutally assaulted and her body thrown in a garbage dump.
The government spokesman in Punjab province, Malek Ahmad Khan, said on Tuesday that the suspect, identified as Mohammad Imran, was arrested near the city of Kasur where Zainab was killed earlier this month.
Her killing exposed a string of child abductions and slayings by a suspected serial predator. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the same suspect is linked to the deaths of eight other children.
Zainab’s father, Mohammad Amin, demanded in an interview with a local television that the culprit be hanged.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, while speaking to media neither confirmed nor denied the reports. He said the Punjab government would brief the media on the matter itself.
The suspect is a resident of the same area and lives very close to the aunt’s house, the sources said.
According to police, the suspect identified as Imran is a resident of Kot Road and a relative of the victim.
The suspect’s appearance matches the appearance of an individual seen with Zainab in CCTV footage recovered by police, according to police sources. He was arrested as part of the investigation earlier but was let go, the sources said, adding that he was arrested again after more evidence was collected.
Reports said the man had disappeared from Kasur after the interrogation and stayed in Phoolnagr, Pakpatan and other areas of Punjab before being arrested by the police. The authorities are likely to hold a press conference to inform the media about the arrest.
On January 4, Zainab went missing after leaving her house on Kasur’s Road Kot area for her maternal aunt’s house a few minutes away for religious lessons.
A few days later, the victim’s body was recovered from a trash heap. An autopsy confirmed that she was strangled to death. It suggested that she had been raped before being killed.
The gruesome murder triggered protests in Kasur and other parts of the country with violent crowds attacking police and residents of ruling party lawmakers. Two protesters were killed in clashes with police after the funeral prayers of the child in Kasur.
The Punjab government had set up Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe the rape and murder of Zainab. Chief Justice of Pakistan had also taken suo motue notice of the incident.
They said Ali had been taken into custody over two weeks ago but was let to go on the Zainab family’s interference ‘claiming that he could not be a culprit’.
Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad told PTI that Ali had confessed to his crime but it would be confirmed whether he is the culprit or not after a DNA test.
“Imran Ali’s DNA test is underway and hopefully we will have the report later in the day,” Ahmad said, adding the suspect has been arrested from Pakpatan district of Punjab.
After her abduction, a CCTV footage showed her walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road.
On January 9, her body was recovered from a heap of trash near the Shahbaz Khan Road. Autopsy report had confirmed rape.
Police have carried out DNA test of more than 1,000 suspects. The Supreme Court on last Sunday gave a 72-hour deadline to the inspector-general of police to arrest the culprit.
Violent protests gripped the Kasur city following Zainab’s murder that claimed two lives. The Zainab incident also stirred a national outcry demanding justice for her.
Last year, 4,139 incidents of child abuse took place in the province where 43 per cent of them were acquainted with perpetrators.