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At least two people were killed and several injured as paramilitary troops were called in to restore order.

The Punjab government had also denied the claims. Vigils and demonstrations are being held in all major Pakistani cities.

The violence erupted in the city of Kasur hours before the funeral of Zainab Ansari, whose case has drawn wide public outrage. "While they didn't do anything, my friends and family spent day and night looking for my daughter", Ameen Ansari, Zainab's father, told news media.

The spokesperson said the government was responsible for providing secure environment to the children. "How was our child kidnapped from a busy market?"

In 2015, more than 200 children were targeted by a criminal gang operating a paedophilia ring in the village of Hussain Khanwala, about 10km south of Kasur.

Naz then reflected on what Zainab's parents must be feeling.

Zainab's killing has sparked a social media deluge, with politicians, celebrities, cricketers and average Pakistanis demanding #JusticeForZainab. COMPASSION lists it as a global societal issue that comes in many forms for children living in poverty - sexual, physical and emotional and includes neglect, exploitation and child labour.

In March 2016, Pakistan passed a law against sexual abuse of minors and child pornography, making it punishable by up to seven years in prison. "Zainab's case is just the tip of the iceberg", Rashid said. They had gone missing for a few days before being killed and theirs bodies had been recovered from abandoned places. "Kasur has been in the spotlight because such cases were reported there in the past", Manizeh Bano, director of the non-governmental organisation Sahil, told DW. "They should not only be trained enough to recognise the bad intentions of any person but also to be open enough to discuss the matter with a reliable elder", he wrote. "Those involved in abusing children feel they can get away with their crimes", Bano added.

The children were sexually exploited and recorded on video, with footage being sold and used to blackmail their families, according to a fact-finding report by the Human Rights Commission Pakistan.

Abubakar Khuda Baksh is the same officer who led a five-member JIT formed by the provincial government to investigate the massive child abuse and extortion scandal in Hussain Khanwala village of Kasur district.