Did we catch the right man in Zainab’s murder?

Published: January 24, 2018

Some people feel that the man who can be seen in the CCTV footage appears to be different from the profile of the suspect, Imran Ali.

After weeks of hoping, praying and demanding justice, we have finally been presented with a man being deemed the main culprit in the Zainab rape case. However, in light of all the information that was revealed to us earlier, along with the hurried nature of this capture, I remain unconvinced that Imran Ali Arshad is the man who not only raped and killed Zainab, but also seven other little girls since 2015.

What is certain is that if the Supreme Court (SC) had not ordered the police to find the killer within 72 hours, the police would never have acted so. Knowing the way our police functions, even if they had caught the real culprit, his release would probably have been secured in exchange for money. Naturally, given the way events have unfolded, I am not alone in being doubtful of the results.

Some people feel that the man who can be seen in the CCTV footage appears to be different from the profile of the suspect arrested. Others wonder if he was a neighbour, why wasn’t he investigated earlier? There are conflicting reports in this regard, with some suggesting that Zainab’s family had told the police that Imran was someone they trusted, who also frequently visited their home and also participated in the protests held against Zainab’s murder, which is why he was let go by the officials in the first place.

According to the neighbours, the police did ask Imran to go with them for questioning, but he started frothing at the mouth and had a fainting episode, while his mother screamed that a pious, God-fearing person like him could never be a rapist or a killer. The neighbours also intervened, claiming that Imran was a deeply religious man who recited naats and offered prayers regularly. Thus, at the time, the police had “no option” but to free him. In fact, in pictures taken during Zainab’s funeral, Imran can be seen a few feet away from Dr Tahirul Qadri.

To rub salt on our wounds, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, addressed a press conference in which he took all credit for solving the case. He also couldn’t resist reminding the nation about the case of Asma, a little girl from Mardan who met a fate similar to that of Zainab and whose case remains unsolved. He seemed to be insinuating that just because the Punjab police “succeeded” in solving Zainab’s case, while the police in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) remain in the dark, somehow the Punjab government is better than the one in K-P. At this point, one can only remind him that Punjab has been in his control for the past 10 years, yet neither its police nor its government did anything when the first rape and murder of a little girl was reported two years ago, nor when the Kasur scandal broke out in 2015.

In fact, in my opinion, Shehbaz is equally responsible for the ensuing deaths of seven innocent little girls, because his policemen did not do what they are paid to do, but were instead used mainly for the protection of the chief minister and his cronies.

Furthermore, whether or not Imran is the real killer, the police are also responsible for the rape and murders which this man is alleged to have committed. The court should order the punishment of all those police officers who failed to take action after the first rape was reported in 2015. The punishment should also fit the crime, and not involve mere suspension or being posted as officer on “special duty”, which is what is usually done whenever a policeman is found to be negligent; case in point: Rao Anwar.

We know that our ruling politicians appoint unqualified and unsuitable persons from their home towns to work as policemen, particularly in Karachi, where several extrajudicial incidents have taken place, including one in which the cops killed four young men in cold blood. They act as if they are above the law – perhaps because in this country, they are – and would never be held accountable for such fake “encounters”. Their leader, Anwar, was caught trying to escape to Dubai after killing an innocent man, Naqeebullah Mehsud. Anwar is reportedly a favourite of those who rule over the unfortunate province of Sindh, and has been suspended several times in the past, only to be re-instated again. Naturally, with such powerful people backing him, Anwar has supervised the killing of about 300 people, claiming that they were militants. In light of these new developments, the court should investigate all these murders and determine how many of the victims were actually innocent.

Just a few months ago, there emerged another case of a “fake encounter”, as video footage showed Faisalabad police pumping bullets into a man called Asif Sardar. Even though he had surrendered and posed no apparent threat, the police later claimed he had opened fire at them first. An investigation conducted last year of 20 police encounters determined that in six such encounters, the police had misused law and had exceeded their powers. Things have become so bad that the common man is now dreadfully afraid of the police. Most people who have been held up, a very common experience for those who live in Karachi, are too scared to go to a police station to report the crime. They fear that they will either be robbed by the cops in exchange for their freedom, or made to forcibly confess to having killed someone or robbed a bank.

As for Zainab’s alleged killer, he has already been presumed guilty, after being condemned by the chief minister of the province. Given the state of our police, and after such extensive media coverage, especially after Shehbaz’s press conference, the accused is unlikely to get a fair trial.

Thus, if Imran is shot dead in an “encounter” while allegedly trying to escape, or if he ends up committing suicide before his trial, we should not and cannot be blamed for suspecting that the real killer is someone who is still out there, while Imran is presented to us as a scapegoat. No matter what happens, however, Shehbaz should be made to realise that due to his inaction in the past, ultimately he, too, bears responsibility for the brutal murder of the eight little girls in Kasur.

Do you think the Punjab police nabbed the right man in Zainab's murder case?

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Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Eddied

    What a ridiculous article? The author actually blames the police for the fact that criminals commit crimes? …and not one word about the DNA evidence that proves who the real criminal actually is in this case?Recommend


    Imran does not look like the man in CCTV. On the basis of DNA report matched in a country where a witness available outside the court on rent is sufficient. Better investigate it separately without the involvement of Punjab Government and Police.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Agree with you 100%. This is the same Punjab where
    Model Town Massacre occurred. Where 16 civilians, not
    14, as claimed, were shot dead by the police. And the police
    force is more or less a private security service for the Sharif
    Brothers and cabal.
    No one remembers the 9 year old boy and the 70 year
    old man killed by Nawaz’s motorcade during his Ghar
    Wapsi jaloos [caravan] from Murree to Raiwind Palace.
    This happened just last year. Police have all the relevant info.
    No arrests, nothing, swept under the carpet. Not a word from
    the same chief minister, who is now gloating as if he personally,
    single handedly, solved the murder case. Sherlock Sharif, Himself.
    They even declared the two victims as martyrs. More like human
    sacrifices to ex Emperor Nawaz and his travelling darbar.
    Imran Arshad, is very likely a scapegoat. Drugged and tortured to
    get a confession out of him. We will never know the real truth.
    And Rao Anwar he is/was the chief executioner for the Count of
    Paris, er…well,,,Larkana?…Garhi Khuda Baksh?Recommend

  • Agman

    Nope, not a match. DNA evidence could be planted to quickly close the case and get the heat off.Recommend

  • Acorn Guts

    Why would police frame Imran out of those 1,200 potential ‘scapegoats’? Not really an easy target because family knows him and he seems to be the religious type and they generally have strong community support no? What’s in it for them? planting DNA is not so simple when CTD, supreme judiciary and federation is involved, this is not a street case .. any police officer will think twice before framing an innocent in case the truth came out later because of high profile nature of crime.

    At least base your conspiracy theory on solid foundation .. mere conjecture and finger pointing .. can’t believe this article got published.Recommend

  • Salman Raheel

    Very informative and an objective article. Any person with an iota of sense knows that everything which has so far been revealed has done nothing to establish that Punjab police has nabbed the actual criminal. If he really is the one then the police must not shy away from addressing the legitimate concerns such as raised by the author.Recommend

  • Salman Raheel

    That’s why they say that you don’t get the feel of a country from internet, you most probably have never been to Pakistan so clearly you are clueless about the modus operandi of the police forces here. Don’t blame us for calling for more transparency in the case. DNA tests prove nothing, they can easily be tampered with. In order to satisfy the masses, it would require the judicial acceptance of Punjab governments version, which BTW remains to be seen.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    A word about DNA evidence!
    It is readily available from the accused!
    It should have been available from the victims body since rape was alleged!

  • Syed Muhammad Qasim Alvi

    Eddied, you do not know the police of Punjab and the governmentRecommend

  • Tight Patloon

    Had pakistanis some brain left, they would believe the DNA test resultsRecommend

  • ABKhan

    Thanks for giving words to the angle most of us are thinkingRecommend

  • MRN

    totally agree with you… If DNA is not enough that nothing can be used to prove the case…

  • Anam

    I really don’t understand where the confusion here is. Imran Ali clearly looks like the man in the CCTV footage that is holding Zainabs hand and walking away with her. She looks like she knows and trusts the person- which adds up since he was a neighbour and someone that visited the family home. The men in the other CCTV footage (who, btw, are just pacing on the street and have incidentally been photographed just because they fit the description of bearded with hats) look nothing like the man walking away with Zainab in the original footage.Recommend

  • middleway1

    So Mr. Lakhani you are going to have a trial in the media instead of letting the courts do their job?Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    DNA tests used globally because THEY CAN NOT BE TAMPERED WITH!Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    And just WHERE would DNA evidence be planted????Recommend

  • Parvez

    What is suspicious and borders on the theatric is the way this whole affair is being handled …… and its still ongoing, its far from ended.Recommend

  • Muhammed Umer Zafar

    This is Calibiri once again. Fishy written all over the case.Recommend

  • Mansoor Alam

    if imran is the real culprit then who are they guys in cctv grabs? surely they are different. the case require a cool and calculated approach by the investigation based on evidence as ultimately the prosecution has to prove beyond a shadow of doubt whether imran is the culprit or not. i see lack of professionalism and politicization . due process of law is what is required not the cheap show we are witnessingRecommend

  • Ily Khan

    I have read that the police detected him through his jacket with two big buttons on shoulders. Which he conveniently left at home after the crime for police to “discover”. Well, well. But what about the spectacles the man in CCTV image is wearing? Did they recover it too? And since it is not a bazaar sunglasses but likely to made by an optician, did the police check the eyesight of the suspect? And question him about the spectacles? Where he got them from?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Planting DNA is very, simple, specially if done by a corrupt,
    inefficient, Punjab Police Force that has a very bad reputation.
    It is done all the time, by corrupt police departments, everywhere.
    Maybe Imran Arshad’s name was pulled out of a bucket with 1,200
    suspects names in it. You can guess.
    The fact that there were 1200 suspects, tells you about the inept,
    ridiculous, investigation. Anyone who passed the victim’s house,
    or was near it, was declared a suspect.
    Be thankful that you were not near the house. Or that would make
    it 1201 suspects.
    In a country where a corrupt thug, political party executioner, a target
    killer, known as the “encounter specialist” was hired and was operating
    as a police inspector, tells you a lot. This man Rao Anwar is accused of
    killing over 300 people. So, how hard would it be to plant DNA?
    These are not conjectures. There blogger presented facts.Recommend

  • Patwari

    DNA can be planted. Very easy to do. Ask your
    local Bharati police dept. how it is done. They will
    tell you.
    You just need to swab the accused mouth with
    a piece of cotton. And get saliva. Or take a piece
    of skin and blood.Recommend

  • MJ Zahid Zahid

    Absolutely correct conclusion. The matter is more complicated by the print media and the social media while introducing all type of conspiracy theories and irrelevant pictures / clips.Recommend

  • InsanityWithin

    Their results can easily be tempered with, doesn’t matter what is being persued Universally. How will you make sure that the DNA under tests was the same one collected from the victim?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, they are smart, that’s why they have a hard time accepting
    DNA as evidence. Which can be planted by a corrupt, unscrupolous
    badly trained, inefficient, sifarish-wala, Punjab police dept.
    Maybe in Bharat they accept it. At face level.Recommend

  • Usman

    Dear Shakir sb, First of all you and me are no one to judge he is real criminal or fake criminal just because we saw certain videos on Tv or social media. Secondly neither you nor me hold any degree related to criminal investigation. Thirdly someone should not write a column about such big issue just because reading few status on social make him believe that something is fishy. You need to research thoroughly before writing such columns. And finally the case is in court so let the court decide.Recommend

  • Kamran Ali

    It is our instinct to deny the evident truth just for the sake of getting hype of social media. Some people are still not willing to digest the truth of Osama Bin Landen being caught from Pakistan.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    The suspect does not appear to be normal, and seems the type who will confess to the murder of the first prime minister of the country in 1951 (when even his father was not born)! And it doesn’t help that CM Punjab condemned him in public, so the suspect cannot have a fair trial. There is also that awkward fact that he is accused of raping/killing those other seven little girls in Kasur from 2015. Why wasn’t he caught then? It was only after the SC intervened that the police acted. As for DNA, the ulema have decided that it can be used only if there is other concrete evidence, like eye- witnesses. If the accused retracts and says he was forced to confess by the police, he cannot be convicted.Recommend

  • Khalid Latif

    Possibilities: Imran’s first DNA was expected to get him declared innocent. But what if he disclosed ‘other’ matters? So, in second test the DNA matched, which would get him hanged, closing the case, which would eliminate the exposure of ‘other’ matters too. So far, Imran is the real culprit in Zainab case. How did the forensic lab matched Imran’s DNA to many other cases who were killed long ago (forensic bank does not exist in Pakistan).Recommend

  • TJ

    So much negativity in this article.
    Trust your institutes. Don’t bring conspiracy theories. Of course police efforts are questionable but if they have now captured the monster then please trust them. Parents also believe that he is the actual animal who committed this horrific act.Recommend

  • sterry

    Looks like the same man to me! What is wrong with you conspiracy theorists – I suppose you believe Dr. Shahid Masood and his ideas too about 37 overseas bank accounts, links with ministers and international billionaires working in this ring – mind you the guy is a serial criminal and molester from a poor neighborhood in Kasur but that doesn’t suit the conspiracy theorists!Recommend

  • sterry

    And you would know about planting evidence in a typical Indian way! Keep up with your conspiracy theories while the world moves on and develops. Imaging and safe cities is the way forward and hopefully India too can stop the scourge of rape and molestation which has it labelled as the Rape Capital of the World !Recommend