By Jibran Ahmad and Asif Shahzad
PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has suspended police accused of being slow to investigate the abduction and murder of a 10-year-old girl in a case that has sparked national outrage, a minister said on Thursday.
The family of the murdered girl, Farishta, say that they reported her missing on May 15 but the police in the capital Islamabad refused to investigate the case or register a missing persons report for five days.
Farishta’s body was discovered on Monday but her family, ethnic Pashtuns, have spoken out against the officials, accusing police of treating them “like animals”. Amid suspicions Farishta was raped before being killed, many Pakistanis vented their anger under social media hashtag #JusticeForFarishta.
Pakistan’s powerful military on Thursday also offered to help solve a case that has caused uproar in the deeply conservative Muslim nation of 208 million people.
Firdous Ashiq, Khan’s de facto information minister, said the premier took notice of the case and ordered the suspension of the officers.
“I assure you that the culprits will be taken to task and all those who didn’t discharge their duty will be made an example,” Ashiq told reporters.
The treatment of Farishta’s family has also angered some members of the Pashtun community, who say the family was discriminated against based on their ethnic background as they hail from the so-called “tribal regions” bordering Afghanistan.
“We hold the police responsible for her murder as they didn’t let us enter the police station when my sister went missing in the evening on May 15,” Farishta’s brother, Abdul Qayum, told Reuters.
Farishta’s father told the BBC that police tasked him with carrying out chores for them around the police station for several days, including cleaning their offices and bringing them fruit for their dinner.
Pakistan military on Thursday said those who killed Farishta “must be brought to justice”.
“Army is ready to provide any support in this regard. We must rise and join to protect our future generations from vile and despicable elements who prey on vulnerable children,” military spokesman Major-General Asif Ghafoor tweeted.
The suspended police officials could not be reached for comment.
Ashiq said the case had been an “eye-opener” for the government.
“It also indicates that how our social challenges have increased,” she said.
(Reporting by Jibran Ahmad and Asif Shahzad; writing by Drazen Jorgic; editing by Nick Macfie)