An anti-terrorism court is set to announce its verdict in the rape and murder case of six-year-old Zainab at the Lahore’s Central Jail in Kot Lakhpat on Saturday.
Zainab’s father, Haji Muhammad Amin, arrived in Kot Lakhpat to witness the verdict early on Saturday morning.
Security has been increased in and around the central jail and the movement of everyone going in and out of the jail is being monitored.
Zainab’s rape and murder last month had sparked outrage and protests across the country after the six-year-old, who went missing on January 4, was found dead in a trash heap in Kasur on Jan 9.
Her case was the twelfth such incident to occur within a 10 kilometre radius in the city over a 12-month period.
The heinous nature of the crime had seen immediate riots break out in Kasur — in which two people were killed — while #JusticeforZainab became a rallying cry for an end to violence against children.
The Punjab government had declared the arrest of prime suspect Imran Ali on January 23.
The trial in the case was concluded on Thursday when ATC-I Judge Sajjad Ahmad reserved the verdict after cross examination of all the prosecution witnesses completed by state counsel Muhammad Sultan who was appointed by the trial court to represent the suspect, Imran Ali.
The accused had initially denied guilt when charges were framed against him, and had opted to contest the trial. However, he made a confession soon after and was indicted on Feb 12. On Feb 14, the ATC recorded his complete statement.
Advocate Mehar Shakeel Multani, private counsel for the suspect, had withdrawn his power of attorney after the suspect made confession before the trial court. The lawyer claimed his conscience did not allow him to defend a killer.
Later, the court provided the suspect with state counsel to complete the trial proceedings.
The prosecution had presented at least 56 witnesses against the suspect in addition to forensic evidence, including the DNA and polygraph tests.
The trial court had concluded the proceedings within four days. The Lahore High Court had given seven days for completion of the trial.
The Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 also requires trial court to proceed with the trial on day-to-day basis and decide the case within seven working days.
A special prosecution team headed by Abdul Rauf Wattoo prosecuted the suspect during the trial. Prosecutor General of Punjab Eihtesham Qadir Shah also monitored the trial proceedings on the instructions of the Supreme Court that had taken a suo motu notice of the Zainab case.
Talking to Dawn, the prosecutor general (PG) had said all the requisites of justice and fairness had been strictly observed during the trial proceedings.
He had said the private counsel for the suspect had cross- examined at least 22 prosecution witnesses before he withdrew his power of attorney.
Later, the state counsel appointed by the court completed the cross-examination of the remaining witnesses, he had added.
Explaining the reasons behind conducting the trial inside the jail, the PG had said it was done for the suspect’s protection and that the law also permitted such precautions for such cases.
Senior lawyer Azam Nazir Tarar, having expertise in criminal law, had commented there had been reservations about the jail-trial and in-camera proceedings.
However, he had said, shortcomings in the trial, if any, could be removed in appeal before the high court. The appeal was considered as continuation of the trial, he added.