The multiple rapes and murder of Zainab Ansari, an eight-year-old girl from Kausar, Pakistan, has sparked a tirade of fury on social media with over half a million users using the hashtag #JusticeForZainab, including many politicians and actors amongst other public figures.

What happened?

Zainab went missing while on her way to a Koran studies class and CCTV footage recovered by her relatives afterwards showed her being led away hand-in-hand with a man clad fully in white, whose back is to the camera while her cousin entered the aunt's house where they were due to study.

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Police recovered the body of the young girl from a rubbish dump roughly 2km away from her home, five days after she had been reported missing by her uncle.

Post-mortem reports have revealed that there were injuries on her face, a bone in her neck had been fractured and her tongue had been crushed between her teeth.

Zainab had been raped multiple times before being strangled to death. The report suggests that when the autopsy was performed, she may have been dead for two or three days already.

In a case of tragic irony, her parents were in Mecca for the Islamic pilgrimage of Umrah, praying for the long lives of all four of their children and buying them toys.

Zainab's father, Ameen Ansari, has accused the police of negligence after relatives told him that police did not take action after reporting her disappearance and instead would “come, have food and leave” as friends, family and neighbours spent days and nights looking for his daughter.

He said that the prompt action by the police could possibly have led them to find Zainab alive and added that although he didn't recognise the man in the CCTV footage, the police should have optimised the images of the suspect to help trace him.

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He added that Pakistan, security is reserved for leaders and compared the general population's treatment to that of "common insects".

Zainab's mother said, "I have nothing to say, I just want justice for my daughter."

Both demanded the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff to take action.

Is sexual abuse against minors common in Pakistan?

Kausar, about 20km south of Lahore, is notorious for sexual abuse against minors with police admitting Zainab is the 8th child to have been raped and murdered in Kasur within the last year. In total, there have been 12 similar murders in the last 2 years – prompting fears and speculation that her captor was a serial killer.

Investigators have since said that they have found traces of the same DNA on six of the girls aged between five to eight, including Zainab, and all of the girls also lived within a 3km radius of each other and went missing from near their homes and were dumped on rubbish sites, drains or in other public spots nearby.

The first was five-year-old Ayesha Bibi who disappeared from outside her home almost exactly a year before Zainab, on 7 January 2017.

Pakistan tightened its legislation on child protection in 2016 by criminalising sexual assault, trafficking and child pornography for the first time after a gang of paedophiles in the same district was exposed. Previously, only Rape was criminalised.

The gang made up of 25 men used guns and knives to force 280 children into sex acts and either sold the footage or blackmailed the families of some of the victims with it, using the power of the prominent families many of them came from.

A report by the Express Tribune said that "the villagers kept silent about the matter for many months because of the scandalous nature of the clippings and because of the close relationship with many of the people concerned on both sides, the victims and the accused.”

12 suspects were arrested in connection with that ring however only two have been convicted thus far with the rest being released on bail and some of the children who have come forward, most of whom were boys, have spoken to local media about the trauma and social alienation they suffered as a result of being a victim of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse is on the rise in Pakistan in general with 4,000 cases reported in 2016, up 10% on the previous year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and in the first half of 2017, 129 cases of child sexual abuse were reported from Kasur alone and an estimated 700 since 2015.

Additionally, there were at least 1,764 cases of child abuse were reported across Pakistan, according to the child protection charity, Sahil. At least 65% of those occurred in Punjab province, where Kasur is situated.

Therefore the Pakistani government is trying to amend structures and legislation to ensure such crimes are dealt with more efficiently and support is in place for victims of sexual abuse although human rights groups say that this is not enough.

What are the protests about?

Violent protests have erupted on the streets of Pakistan which have led to the deaths of two people and left three others wounded with shop owners shutting their businesses and demonstrators expressing their contempt at the incompetence shown by the police since the murders began.

A local police spokesman told the media that "up to 1,000" people had taken to the streets and had thrown stones at government buildings and set cars alight.

The two alleged protestors were killed after an angry mob attempted to storm the local police headquarters just before Zainab's funeral - in which cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri took part and demanded the local government be replaced although her father had said that her funeral would not be held until the perpetrator was found, it was held nevertheless and attended by thousands - and police opened fire in an effort to quell the violence and parliamentary troops were also called in to restore order.

Footage showed the police firing shots towards the mob before being told by their superiors to fire into the air, however, one instance shows an officer ignoring requests to hold direct fire and continuing to shoot protestors, some of whom are now recovering at the hospital.

Kasur's Police Chief Zulfiqar Hameed described the situation as "very tense” and refused to confirm if the two men had died from police gunshots.

However, Kashif Imran, the brother of one of the deceased protesters, said his brother was only an innocent bystander who went to see if a shop was open and then went along with the procession on the road where the police opened fire.

What action has taken place since?

The provincial government has since said that six security personnel, including four police officers, responsible for the shooting had been taken into custody, one had been killed during the arrest attempt and the others were being interrogated.

Meanwhile, the police have defended their efforts and claim to have interrogated 227 people in connection with the case, taken DNA samples from approximately 90 suspects and arrested between 10 to 20 people. They say the investigation is ongoing and the provincial Police Chief has submitted a report to the Supreme Court which defends his department's investigation into the case.

Since then, Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab province has sacked Kasur's Police Chief Zulfiqar Hameed and offered a reward of 10 million rupees (£67,000) for information leading to the killer’s arrest.

He has also offered 3m rupees each to the families of those killed by the police during the protests and asked the police to provide full details of the 11 murders of young girls in the same area before that of Zainab.

Sharif, who is the brother of the deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and a contender to replace him when Pakistan goes to the polls in May, has ordered police to make arrests within 24 hours after a meeting with Zainab's father and assured him that justice will be delivered.

Police insist that they have been on the killer's trail since he first struck in 2015 but seem to have few leads.

Pakistan's National Commission on Human Rights said that it published a report regarding the prevalent child abuse in Kausar and surrounding areas but the findings were simply ignored by the authorities.

Additionally some locals are reluctant to report crimes against children after they had seen those who had prosecuted under anti-terrorism legislation.

Zainab's father, Ameen Ansari, doesn't agree with the violence but understood the anger against the police. Zainab's uncle, Hafiz Muhammad Adnan echoed the sentiment for calm amid the protests and said police should catch the murderer alive to ensure that nobody innocent is killed in an attempt to serve quick justice and rid themselves of the burden.

Her father has also called on the government to publicly punish the perpetrator so it will serve as a deterrent for similar cases and wants security to be improved in the area overall alongside the installation of security cameras.

How else has the case been publicised?

The case received even more attention when Kiran Naz, a popular news presenter on Pakistan's Samaa TV hosted a live news bulletin with her young daughter on her lap as an act of protest.

She opened her segment by saying: "Today, I am not your news anchor Kiran Naz. Today I am here as a mother. This is why I am sitting here with my daughter."

The 1.50-minute long monologue by Naz sees her condemn the rapes and murders that plague the country and say that “It is true when they say that the smallest coffins are the heaviest and all of Pakistan is burdened by the weight of her coffin."

Naz ended the bulletin by saying..." it is not just the girl who is dead, the whole of humanity died with her."

Why has Zainab's killing been the only one to cause such a reaction?

While it is unclear exactly why Zainab's killing, in particular, has sparked such a reaction, some people have said that it is purely because of her middle-class status.

Another girl, six-year-old Qainat, went missing in November after going to buy yoghurt from the shop down the road from her house.

Her body was found in a nearby graveyard and she was only just alive. The only girl to have survived her ordeal, she is currently in hospital paralysed from the head down and unable to talk.

She appears to have been attacked by the same perpetrator and her uncle, Irfan Ali, says he's convinced that the killer lives locally.

He believes that her case never received the same amount of attention as Zainab's because her family are rich and have political connections while no politician came to see them because they are poor and therefore nobody cares.

Zainab's extended family are said to have links to senior figures in the political opposition, however, Zainab's father has said that many political leaders visit him as the case of his child's Murder became more prominent, but that not enough was being done to prevent such crimes from occurring.

"Ministers and important people are coming, but nothing was done in the days Zainab was missing."

Some used the hashtag to highlight other cases of sexual assault and murder against young children that have not received the same level of attention asking "How many Zainabs will it take?"

There is now a real urgency to find the killer once and for all and the entire community seems to agree that we can't let this happen to another girl.

What needs to be done to stop more of these cases from happening in the future?

The online campaign has gathered massive support, with demands for justice and tougher sentencing, including the death penalty, for child sex offences.

Others are hoping to break the silence around the somewhat taboo issue of sexual abuse despite roughly 1 in 5 Pakistani children being abused and suggesting this should be done in schools via a change in the academic curriculum.

There have also been calls to for the government to implement legal trials for victims as well as ensuring that they are not demonised or shamed by the community and receive the support necessary.