Protests erupt after girl, 8, is raped and set on fire in Pakistan

Second-grade student had gone missing on Sunday evening after she left her home to buy some sweets

Islamabad: Angry residents of Chichawatni, a city in Punjab’s Sahiwal district, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the alleged rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl.

The eight-year-old girl, Noor Fatima, was allegedly burnt alive after being raped and breathed her last at a hospital in Lahore yesterday.

As the girl’s body was carried for funeral prayers, the city observed a shutdown and protesters raised slogans of “Zaalimon! khoon ka hisaab do [Oppressors, answer for the blood of the child!]”.

The victim’s family appealed for justice and protesters demanded that the culprits behind the girl’s murder be hanged.

The second-grade student, a resident of Chichawatni area of Sahiwal, had gone missing on Sunday evening after she left her home to buy some sweets.

Relatives and neighbours started looking for her after she did not return home and later found her in a street in an unconscious state, with burns all over her body.

The girl was taken to Tehsil Headquarters (THQ) Hospital, from where she was referred to Jinnah Hospital in Lahore due to her critical condition.

According to doctors, she had received 70 to 80 per cent burns.

The girl died during treatment late on Monday night. The body was handed over to the family after a post-mortem examination.

The child was laid to rest on Tuesday at a graveyard in Chichawatni after the funeral prayers, which were attended by a large number of people.

Sahiwal District Police Officer Mohammad Atif Ikram told media that police filed a murder case whereas rape charges will be added after receiving the forensic report.

He vowed to arrest the culprits as soon as possible. Police have arrested one suspect and detained him in custody. DPO Sahiwal told media that his officers were investigating the case and they had formed teams to track down the perpetrators.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif took notice of media reports and directed the police to provide justice to Noor Fatima’s family at any cost.

Civil society representatives and political figures also visited the victim’s house and assured the affected family of their complete support.

The murder revived memories of the brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari of Kasur in January 2018.

The incident shocked the entire country, galvanising public support for tough measures to end violence against children. Later in February 2018, an antiterrorism court had sentenced convict Imran Ali to death on four counts in the Zainab murder case.

Since the beginning of this year, Pakistan has witnessed surge in the reporting of sexual abuse cases mainly because of extensive media reporting and swift response of judiciary and law enforcing agencies.

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