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Senate panel to take up Zainab, Asma cases today – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior will receive separate briefings from officials of law enforcement agencies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday on incidents of rape and murder of minor girls in Kasur and Mardan.

According to a revised agenda of the meeting of the committee, headed by former interior minister Rehman Malik, the members will also receive a briefing on the government’s policy on the Exit Control List.

Initially, the committee meeting was convened only for a briefing “on the incident of rape and murder of eight-year-old Zainab in Kasur (Punjab)” and to take up four different bills, including the Protection of the Rights of the Transgender Persons Bill and the Miscarriage of Justice (Compensation) Bill. But the Senate Secretariat issued a new agenda on Friday, excluding all the four bills, and including a briefing on the incident of rape and murder of four-year-old Asma in Mardan, KP.

The country has been in the grip of shock after the recovery of the body of eight-year-old Zainab Amin from a garbage heap in Kasur on Jan 9. Zainab was kidnapped from her neighbourhood on Jan 4 when her parents were in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.

Her autopsy report suggested that she was raped and later murdered.

The news shocked the entire country, triggering violence in Kasur when residents agitated against the police’s inaction over the rape and murder of Zainab, the 12th such case to occur within a two-kilometre radius of the city in a year. Two people were killed by gunshot wounds as enraged protesters, armed with sticks and stones, attempted to storm the deputy commissioner’s office and clashed with police.

Television footage showed a policeman firing directly into the advancing mob before being told to fire into air.

The prime suspect in the case, however, remains at large despite the provincial administration and police forming multiple committees and several agencies working on the case.

While opposition parties were using the Kasur incident to target the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government in Punjab, media reported a similar incident in Mardan in the PTI-ruled KP province. The body of four-year-old Asma was found in sugarcane fields in Mardan a day after she went missing.

The medico-legal report of the girl suggested that she died by strangulation and also pointed to sexual violence against her.

The National Assembly has also constituted a 10-member special committee through a resolution to look into child abuse cases to curb such crimes by making full use of legal remedies, effective investigation and speedy prosecution. The committee has been given one month to come up with its recommendations.

The multi-party committee comprises Talal Chaudhry, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Zahid Hamid, Shaista Pervaiz, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Romina Khurshid, Azra Fazl Pechuho, Muhammad Khan, Kihwar Zehra and Sahibzada Tariqullh.

The special committee was scheduled to meet on Monday to elect its chairperson, but the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday announced that the meeting had now been cancelled.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2018

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