Pakistan Court hands down 4 death sentences to Zainab’s killer

Islamabad: In a rare act of swift justice, Pakistan’s anti-terrorism court on Saturday awarded death sentence on four counts to Imran Ali, accused for the rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ameen in Kasur.

The 24-year-old Imran Ali has been sentenced on four grounds — murdering a child, kidnapping a child, rape of a minor, and committing an unnatural act with a minor. Ali has also been sentenced for seven years with a fine of Rs1 million for desecrating the body of a minor.

The verdict was announced by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) at Lahore’s Central Jail in Kot Lakhpat on Saturday. Zainab’s father, Ameen Ansari, was in court to witness the verdict, amid heavy security.

The landmark verdict has set a precedent in Pakistan for delivering swift justice and for being the “first case examined on the basis of scientific evidence,” remarked Prosecutor General of Punjab Eihtesham Qadir outside the court. The verdict was announced within 24 days of the arrest of the suspect.

The prosecution had presented at least 56 witnesses against the suspect in addition to forensic evidence, including the DNA and polygraph tests. The trial court had concluded the proceedings within four days.

A special prosecution team headed by Abdul Rauf Wattoo prosecuted the suspect during the trial and Prosecutor General of Punjab Eihtesham Qadir Shah monitored the trial proceedings.

Qadir told media that the court provided the suspect with state counsel and a fair trial. Imran, however, confessed of raping and murdering eight other minor girls in Kasur for which he would be tried in coming weeks, he said. The convict now has 15 days to challenge the verdict and file an appeal.

Zainab’s parents felt relief and closure as they heard about the death sentence.

Ameen Ansari, the father of the victim, expressed satisfaction on the verdict but demanded public hanging of the accused. “He should be hanged at same place where my daughter’s dead body was found,” he pleaded.

Zainab’s rape and murder last month had sparked outrage and protests across the country after the eight-year-old, who went missing on January 4, was found dead in a dumpster in Kasur on January 9.

The public demand for immediate arrest of the culprit resulted in an unprecedented police and judicial inquiry in which almost all law enforcement and secret agencies participated and a large pool of suspects were probed, besides carrying out DNA profiling of more than 1100 people.

As soon as the verdict was announced, Pakistani social media was brimming with messages such as “Justice is served” and appreciating the role of courts.

“Justice Served. A great decision by the court awarding this demon death penalty. Hope the appeal happens Quickly so that this Evil Person could be hanged as soon as Possible” Senator Aitzaz Ahsan tweeted.

Dr Farzana Bari, human rights activist in Pakistan, appreciated the swift verdict. “While the judgement not bring back their little girl but it has surely brought some relief to the family as well as for to Pakistanis who have long been disappointed by the lack of implementation of law.”

Humanitarian and activist, Shehzad Roy, appreciated and highlighted the importance of forensic science in fighting crimes. “There should be forensic labs all across Pakistan to facilitate the law enforcement agencies and for prompt dispensation of justice” he stressed.

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