Members of VCare Welfare Trust hold placards during a protest against an alleged gang rape of a woman, in Karachi on September 13, 2020.   - Hundreds of women took to streets across Pakistan on September 12 protesting gruesome gang rape of a woman in front of her two children after her car ran out of fuel near the eastern city of Lahore late on September 9. (Photo by Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP) (Photo by RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP via Getty Images)

Pakistani toddler’s murder sparks outrage

Police in northwest Pakistan have made a string of arrests as they search for the killer of a two-year-old girl whose rape and murder have drawn comparisons to an infamous 2018 killing that sparked riots.

The girl, Zainab, disappeared on Tuesday (6) while playing outside her village home in Charsadda district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Her body was discovered a day later, prompting a large-scale manhunt that by Saturday had led to the arrests of at least 17 men, district police chief Muhammad Shoaib told AFP.

Additionally, police took DNA samples from about 400 people, he said.

“Initial medical reports have confirmed the minor girl was raped before murder,” Shoaib said.

The incident was reminiscent of an early 2018 case in which a six-year old girl — also called Zainab — was raped and murdered in the eastern city of Kasur, in Punjab province.

The killing sparked outrage across Pakistan, with violence erupting in Kasur as thousands swarmed police stations and set fire to politicians’ homes, while Pakistanis across the country took to social media demanding action.

Her killer was hanged later that year.

This week’s case has led to growing outrage on social media, with #JusticeforZainab and #AnotherZainab circulating widely on Pakistani Twitter.