The police have taken at least 50 suspects into custody in the brutal rape case of a five-year-old girl in Lahore.
"We have taken at least 50 suspects, including some boys of the victim's family, into custody and are interrogating," a senior official of Crime Investigation Agency told PTI on the condition of anonymity.
"Those taken into custody also include vagabonds of the locality and some labourers. Two police teams have been working on the case day and night and we are very much positive to arrest the culprit(s) soon," he said.
The CIA official further informed that the investigating teams are also taking help of the police of other districts to arrest those men who were present near the victim's family's residence in Mughalpura when the incident took place. The police have started conducting DNA tests to identify the suspects.
"We are still looking for the main accused. We have also taken some suspects into custody after observing CCTV footages," said Lahore police chief Chaudhry Shafique.
Meanwhile, local MP Hamza Shahbaz, son of Punjab's Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif, said that law enforcement agencies have got an important clue in the case. He said 'hectic efforts' are underway to arrest all of the accused, though the number of perpetrators cannot be ascertained at the moment.
A police official, Jamil Khan, was suspended and subsequently arrested for releasing four suspects after taking bribe from them.
The girl, the youngest of nine siblings, was playing outside her house at Ghausia Colony in Mughalpura -- a thickly populated impoverished neighbourhood -- on Thursday evening when she went missing. Her family made announcements through loudspeakers in mosques and carried out a search but was unable to trace her. They also approached the Mughalpura police station but officials refused to register a complaint.
A security guard found the girl lying unconscious with bloodstains on her clothes in a forested area near Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on Friday morning.
A three-member team of senior doctors at Services Hospital, where the girl is being treated, performed two "minor" procedures to save her life.
"The girl is now stable. Her life is out of danger now," said the hospital's Medical Superintendent, Dr Rehana Malik. However, she added that the girl had other severe medical complications and the doctors would soon go for another procedure. Dr Malik confirmed rape quoting a medical report.
“The girl is being looked after a team of senior doctors at the ICU and we hope her condition will gradually improve," she said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu said that the girl could be sent abroad if needed. The police have registered a case under sections 363 and 376 of Pakistan Penal Code, however, legal experts believe that the incident should be registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act and tried by special court too in order to ensure maximum penalty for the rapists.
Meanwhile, civil society activists continued holding demonstrations demanding swift action in the case. They strongly condemned the incident and demanded that the government arrest the accused at the earliest.
The Pakistan People's Party also announced plans to hold demonstrations across the country till the arrest and punishment of the culprits.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif earlier held a meeting with the police head of Punjab province and directed him to arrest the culprits without any delay.
Image: A protest against increasing rape cases in Karachi, Pakistan