The brutal rape and murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari in Kasur has rocked Pakistan since the beginning of January. The police have nabbed the alleged murderer, but the Zainab murder case now appears to be falling into the fake news controversy. Noted TV anchorperson Shahid Masood made a sensational claim earlier this week. In his show that aired Wednesday night, Masood claimed that Zainab Ansari’s alleged murderer Imran Ali had as many as 37 local and foreign currency bank accounts.
TV anchorperson at the center of fake news controversy in Zainab murder case
Shahid Masood had also indicated that Imran was part of a larger child pornography scandal. However, latest developments suggest that he might just have been spreading fake news. Soon after presenting evidence to the Supreme Court, Shahid Masood publicly backtracked from his earlier statement that Imran had 37 bank accounts. He told the Express Tribune that “things are often misreported.”
He said, “I did not provide this information with any wrong intent.” Irrespective of his intent, the information did turn out to be false. Shahid Masood added that it was not his responsibility to carry out investigations and find the truth. He had also claimed in his TV show that the alleged culprit in Zainab murder case had the backing of a prominent personality and a federal minister.
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Following his sensational claims, the Punjab government set up a JIT to investigate into the alleged 37 local and foreign bank accounts of Imran Ali. Imran is also accused of killing seven other girls in Kasur besides Zainab Ansari. During the Supreme Court hearing, Shahid Masood alleged that 24-year-old Imran had 37 bank accounts and he was part of an international child sex racket.
He even alleged that the powerful people backing Imran could get Zainab’s suspected murderer killed in jail. The Supreme Court assured him that the responsibility of the suspect’s security was with the IG Punjab. The Supreme Court had asked the Punjab government officials to submit their investigation report by Monday.
In an interesting turn of events, Masood did not appear before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Friday to provide evidence. However, he had handed a piece of paper with names of prominent figures involved in the international child pornography racket to the Supreme Court judges. The Supreme Court has adjourned the case till January 29th.
Despite written notice, Dr. Shahid Masood didn't appear before the JIT formed by Punjab govt to share the proof of information he claimed about bank accounts allegedly held by the accused in Zainab case. His contact numbers are switched OFF and we couldn't connect .
— Punjab 2013-18 (@Punjab13to18) January 26, 2018
SBP says no bank accounts under the name of Imran Ali
It’s not just that Shahid Masood has backtracked from his sensational claims. The State Bank of Pakistan looked into the bank accounts that according to Masood belonged to Imran Ali, the alleged culprit in the Zainab murder case. The SBP said in a statement that those bank accounts did not exist. Pakistan’s central bank found no such bank accounts maintained by Imran Ali. The SBP handed over the details to the Federal Investigation Agency. The FIA has also confirmed that the accused in Zainab murder case had no bank accounts under his name.
Imran Ali was arrested a few days ago as the prime suspect in the alleged rape and murder of Zainab Ansari earlier this month. Zainab was staying with her relatives, and her parents had gone to Saudi Arabia when she went missing. She was missing for five days before her body was found in a garbage dump in Kasur. Zainab’s relatives had complained that the local police did not cooperate with them until it became a national issue.
Zainab was not the only minor girl to have been kidnapped and murdered in Kasur. At least 12 girls have been assaulted in the city since last year. According to the child protection organization Sahil, there were 1,764 cases of child abuse across Pakistan in the first half of 2017.