A mob angered by the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl attacked a police station and a nearby government building in eastern Punjab province, triggering clashes that left at least two people dead and several injured.
The violence erupted in the city of Kasur today, hours before the funeral of Zainab Ansari, whose case has drawn wide public outrage.
The girl went missing last week while going to a nearby home for Koranic studies. Her parents, who were away at a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia at the time, returned today, landing at the Islamabad airport.
"We will not bury our daughter until her killers are arrested," said the father, Ameen Ansari, as his wife sobbed.
Zainab's body was found yesterday in a rubbish bin, senior police officer Imran Nawaz Khan said.
Police say she was abducted, raped and murdered. Officer Maqsood Ahmed said six girls were sexually assaulted in recent months in Kasur and that police were probing whether there was a connection in the cases.
Activists on social media have condemned the government for failing to arrest those involved in the crime.
It is impossibl not to cry simply imagining the tragedy of Kasur minor girl’s rape&murder. Incidents lyk these make u lose faith in humanity & u wish to deal wd the beasts with your own bare hands. Statistics of recordd crimes agnst children r harrowing.😩 https://t.co/uS0tZBQBF5— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) January 10, 2018
Deeply disturbed about the 8yr old girl who was abused & murdered in Kasur. The govt has miserably failed to protect the children of Pakistan. Child abuse is rampant. The perpetrators must be given the severest possible punishment under the law to set an example.— Mohammad Sarwar (@ChMSarwar) January 10, 2018
As the attack on the police station and the subsequent clashes unfolded today, local TV broadcast footage showing police firing shots in the air and towards the stone-throwing mob, trying to disperse it.
In one segment, an officer asks another to hold direct fire, after which the second officer is seen continuing to shoot at the protesters.
#Kasur: 'Don't shoot straight, hey, fire in the air', police officer yells at colleague as he keeps firing straight at the protesters.— Daily Times (@dailytimespak) January 10, 2018
Two died on Wednesday in Kasur while clashing with police during #JusticeForZainab protests pic.twitter.com/TaUCkQt1jv
Also today, the Lahore High Court's chief justice ordered a probe into Zainab's killing.
Zulfiqar Hameed, the police chief in Kasur, refused to say whether the two people killed in today's clashes had died from police gunshots.
Provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said the police were trying to contain the violence and find and arrest those involved in the girl's murder.
Kasur shop owners shut their businesses on Wednesday to express their anger over Zainab's murder.
Firebrand cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri who took part in the girl's funeral service demanded the local government be replaced, saying it has "no right to remain in power after the killing of Zainab Ansari".
In a speech to thousands of mourners, he blamed the Punjab chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, for failing to "protect lives and honour of innocent girls" in the province.
He issued an ultimatum to Mr Sharif and Mr Sanaullah to step down by January 17 to avoid street protests.
The cleric is a staunch political rival of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party and he has led violent rallies in the capital, Islamabad, since 2014 after eight of his supporters were killed in anti-government rallies in Lahore, Punjab's provincial capital.