Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah on Wednesday took notice of the alleged rape and murder of a 8-year-old girl in Kasur which has sparked protests and outrage both in the city and on social media.

Zainab, 8, was last known to have attended a tuition centre near her house in the Road Kot area last Thursday, after which she was allegedly abducted. Zainab’s parents had gone to perform Umrah and, according to the family, were scheduled to return that very day.

Her panicked family received footage showing her with a stranger near Peerowala Road, a video which has since gone viral on social media.

On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a heap of trash near Shahbaz Khan Road.

Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days ago, and sent her body to the District Headquarters Hospital for an autopsy where a number of people had gathered. Police had reluctantly handed her body over to the family due to apprehension over a protest.

What we know so far:
FIR was registered on Jan 4, the day the girl went missing
CCTV footage of girl with a stranger circulated on social media
Police find girl allegedly raped and murdered in trash heap on Tuesday
Police confirm that girl was strangled
Citizens stage protest, shutter-down strike in Kasur
Social media outrage over police inaction
LHC CJ, Punjab CM, Senate take notice of case
Protesters storm DC office demanding action, 2 killed
Regional Police Officer (RPO) Kasur Zulfikar Muhammad confirmed today that the girl was strangled to death. He told the media that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed the forensic lab to expedite the process for Zainab’s autopsy.

“Naturally, there is also a certain amount of time that the processing will take; there is a certain amount of time that the lab takes,” he said.

The alleged rape and murder of the minor girl ─ the 12th such incident to occur in Kasur within a two kilometre radius in the past year ─ has ignited protests and a shutter-down strike in the city since Tuesday.

As word got around, traders shuttered their shops and staged a protest demonstration. Scores of other people also gathered at Steel Bagh Mor near the hospital and protested with the girl’s body in the middle of the road. They also threw traffic out of gear by burning tyres on Ferozepur Road and chanted slogans against police and local parliamentarians for their alleged apathy.

Today, enraged citizens armed with sticks and stones stormed the deputy commissioner’s office in protest over police inaction.

According to local reports, two protesters were killed and two others injured during the protest.

People from other parts of the county took to social media to share their anger and outrage over the murder, using the hashtag #JusticeForZainab.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah appealed for calm, saying the provincial government had “taken notice of the case”.

“People need to keep their emotions in check and not aggravate the situation,” he advised.

Sanaullah said the culprit seems to be an acquaintance of the family. He added that a child’s safety is its parents’ responsibility.

Rights activist Farzana Bari observed that people “feel unsafe” and “have lost all trust in state institutions”.

“These people that are protesting do not have a leader, they are not being led,” she pointed out. “They are all protesting because they feel unsafe.”

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed while speaking to DawnNews said the culprits in such cases “should be found and hanged” so that such incidents don’t occur again.

Philanthropist Sarim Burney accused those in power of only being concerned about “safeguarding” their power, whereas those not in power seem interested only in attaining it.

“Why is the PTI not protesting now? Why is Tahirul Qadri silent? He has been concerned about his 14 people (victims of the Lahore Model Town tragedy), however he has nothing to say about these children,” he lamented.

‘Unforgivable’ incident
The Senate Standing Committee on Interior as well as Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also took notice of the incident on Wednesday and ordered the Punjab police to take swift action.

Committee Chairman Rehman Malik called the incident unforgivable and ordered that the Punjab police submit a report on the matter within the next five days.

Malik also said that the Inspector General of Punjab should personally investigate the matter and treat it as a challenge.

The District Bar Association (DBA) has announced boycott of court proceedings today to express solidarity with the bereaved family and build pressure on the law-enforcement agencies to arrest the killer.