Pakistan officials probing suspect’s possible porn ring ties in Zainab rape case

Islamabad: Pakistani officials have opened an investigation into whether a suspect arrested in the slaying of eight girls was linked to an international child-porn ring.

Thursday’s development came days after suspect Mohammad Imran was arrested in connection with the rape and killing of a 8-year-old girl. Zainab Ansari was assaulted and her body thrown in a garbage dump in the city of Kasur early this month.


Pakistan’s chief justice Thursday sought a report from investigators after TV journalist Shahid Masood in his programme claimed Imran had 37 bank accounts and could be part of a gang that supplied porn videos of children to an international network.

The Supreme Court on Thursday summoned Masood to provide clarity on his comments.

Masood, in his show, had alleged that Zainab’s suspected rapist and murderer was a member of a pornography gang which also includes a Punjab minister, DawnNews reported.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar asked Masood to write down the names of the provincial minister and another top official he had mentioned during his show.

Masood complied and handed over the names written on a piece of paper to the CJP.

A three-judge bench, headed by the CJP, watched footage of the TV show and advised the Punjab Inspector General of Police Arif Nawaz Khan and a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the allegations.

Hamid told the court that Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had formed a six-member team after the show was aired.

Masood alleged before the judges that the suspect in custody for the murder of Zainab and other children is not “mentally challenged or simple-minded”, but rather a “member of an international ring”. He has 37 foreign currency bank accounts, and the backing of the country’s most important personality and a minister.

Masood raised concerns over the security of the suspect, saying he feared the possibility that he would be killed in police custody. He asked that the suspect be kept in the custody of an intelligence agency.

“The matter of the suspect’s security is very important,” the CJP said, adding that the responsibility to ensure his security in police custody is the IGP’s. “The suspect’s security should be foolproof,” the CJP asserted.

The court asked Masood to provide details regarding the evidence he had, to which the television personality said he had submitted the details of the suspect’s 37 bank accounts to the court.

“If these accusations are incorrect, it will not be good,” the CJP warned.

The case was adjourned until Monday.

On Wednesday, the suspect, Imran Ali, was remanded in custody for 14 days by an antiterrorism court in Lahore.

Zainab’s murder weeks earlier sparked outrage across the country with riots erupting in Kasur as thousands swarmed police stations and set fire to politicians’ homes, while Pakistanis took to social media demanding action.

As Ali appeared in court under heavy security Wednesday, Pakistanis across the country demanded capital punishment on social media.

Ali’s court appearance came as new details emerged about his behaviour following the murder of Zainab.

According to the victim’s father Ameen Ansari, Ali — who lived nearby — had participated in the initial protests that erupted after Zainab’s body was discovered.

“He was the person who insisted upon continuing the protests and keeping the body of Zainab on road when we had negotiations with the police chief and agreed to bury Zainab’s body,” Ansari told AFP on Wednesday.

Ansari said anger has been growing since the arrest with people calling for Ali to be “publicly hanged or stoned to death”.

Ehsan Ilahi, the father of another rape victim, who survived being brutally attacked but remains in a critical condition, said nothing short of torture would suffice.

“His fingers and hands should be broken. He should be given wounds,” said Ilahi.

However, doubts remain over whether police have succeeded in capturing the correct assailant in the case.

Mohammad Ayub, the uncle of another victim, said police had a troubling record in similar cases.

A BBC report last week accused police of the extrajudicial killing of a man wrongfully accused in one of the earlier murder cases.

“Police had already killed three people wrongly in such cases. It may be another attempt of police officials to wash people’s eyes,” Ayub said.

Pakistan’s forensic experts remain confident they have nabbed the true culprit.

“Our 50-member team of DNA scientists … conducted tests on 60 to 70 people every day until they traced the culprit,” said Rana Mohammad Shafique, a senior official at Punjab Forensic Science Agency, Pakistan’s only forensic laboratory.

Before the recent flood of cases, Kasur was already infamous for sexual abuse, after authorities uncovered a huge paedophilia ring in the city in 2015.

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