ISLAMABAD -- Police have arrested a suspected serial killer in connection with charges linked to the rape and murder of four boys in Chunian, Punjab Province, officials said.
The first of the children -- Muhammad Imran, Mohammad Faizan, Ali Hasnain and Muhammad Salman -- went missing in June. Their bodies were found starting last month around Chunian in Kasur District.
The victims, all between the ages of 8 and 12, were strangled after being raped, said police.
Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar on Tuesday (October 1) told reporters that police had arrested Sohail Shahzad, 27, after his DNA samples matched those found on the children.
To be tried under terrorism law
Shazad will be tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act in connection with charges of kidnapping, assaulting and killing the children, said Buzdar.
"Police during the massive investigation surveyed 26,251 persons, checked 4,684 houses and collected 1,734 DNA samples," said Regional Police Officer (RPO) Sheikhupura Sohail Habib Tajik.
The police also profiled 904 drivers, analysed the data of 8,307 phones and interrogated 3,117 suspects, he added.
"This is the amount of effort the police made to ... arrest the culprit," said Tajik.
Shahzad was arrested in 2011 for raping a child and went to prison. At the time, he worked as a auto rickshaw driver. After leaving prison, he began working at a tandoor.
Improvements in forensic criminal and terror investigations made such an arrest possible.
Stopping murderers, child abuse
Pakistanis stressed the need for the implementation of strict laws to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
While Pakistan has child protection laws, more needs to be done to raise awareness among families and in society so that victims seek justice, observers say.
Abused and neglected children have a higher susceptibility to recruiters from extremist groups and violent criminal gangs, among other possible negative outcomes of the ill treatment, say many observers.
Militants in Pakistan have indoctrinated neglected children into becoming suicide bombers.
"We need to unite for protecting our children and stop child abuse in society," said Arshad Mahmood, a Peshawar-based children's rights activist.
The government, children, parents and every part of the society needs to play a role in protecting children from such beasts, he said.
"There must be strict laws... over such crimes so no one dares to touch any child," said Zafar Ullah, a private school teacher from Peshawar.
"Only justice in society can prevent such crimes and save society from evils such as militancy and terrorism," he said.