Islamabad-On the fateful day of 4 January, 2018, seven year old Zainab Ansari went missing.

The girl was brutally raped, murdered, and left in a pile of garbage. She was kidnapped, assaulted and strangled to death. All this happened while her parents had gone out of the country to perform pilgrimage. According to CCTV footage, the little girl can be seen being led by hand by somebody apparently well-known to her.

We are all aware that this is not the first or last incident of such nature. We have been witnessing such heinous crimes for a long time and will continue to do so. Only last month, a six-year-old girl named Aman Fatima was murdered after being abducted and raped by unidentified suspects in Okara. Her dead body was lying in a sugarcane field outside her village. Unfortunately, this horrific ordeal didn’t create much of hue and cry in the media or masses and the time waited for another Aman Fatima to appear in the shape of Zainab.

Now, we have lost both along with other 10 little souls who became an object of torture and pleasure supposedly by the same culprit.

The brutal rape and murder of minors Zainab and Aman are not incidents in isolation. As many as 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported from across Pakistan everyday. The news of Zainab’s rape and murder sparked protest across Pakistan and also brought flashbacks of the torment that children in Kasur had to go through in the past several years. Kasur is the same district in Punjab where a series of child sexual abuses occurred in Hussain Khanwala village from 2006 to 2014, culminating in a major political scandal in 2015. After the discovery of hundreds of video clips showing children performing forced sex acts, various Pakistani media organizations estimated that 280 to 300 children, most of them male, were victims of sexual abuse. The scandal involved an organized crime ring that sold child pornography to porn sites, and blackmailed and extorted relatives of the victims. To this date, people remain unaware of the culprits and the official and unofficial supports the criminals had in running that vicious operation.

While we mourned Zainab, another sad news came to the fore. The dead body of a 15 year-old boy named Faizan was found in an agricultural field in Dijkot district of Faisalabad. Faizan was brutally murdered after being sexually assaulted and tortured. The victim had disappeared several days before his family came to know of his death.

According to the latest numbers released by Sahil organization, a total of 1,764 cases of child abuse were reported from across the country in the first six months of 2017 alone. In the previous year, the total number of reported child abuse cases stood at a staggering 4,139, bringing the total number of children being abused in Pakistan per day to 11.  The above figures are a fresh reminder to the government concerning the failure of law enforcement agencies in Pakistan, particularly Punjab, in capturing these criminals and tackling a pestilence that has taken hold of our society.

To demand justice for Zainab, people gathered at Kasur’s DPO office who welcomed them by opening fire at the protesters, killing two of and injuring many. Soon after the incident, media personnel took the law minister Rana Sanaullah on line who plainly denied the firing on protestors’ episode as a baseless story. Instead of sympathizing with the grieved family, he blamed Zainab’s parents for what had happened and said that the police had dealt with the demonstrators the right way.  On the other hand, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif sacked Kasur’s DPO but this is the least we can expect from him. According to data, the province of Punjab is least affected by terrorist attacks in Pakistan. However, when it comes to violence against women and child abuses, Punjab is on top among other provinces.

The scandal caused nationwide outrage that the Punjab police and Malik Ahmed Saeed, Kasur’s MPA from the ruling PML (N), were involved in the attempted cover-up of the abuse.

It is a sad state of affairs. Many people are asking for public execution of the culprit. Although, that is not a long-term solution to the problem, at the moment it seems like the only one. With a weak police force and judicial system where you can bribe an officer to register an incomplete or misleading FIR against the culprit to help them get acquitted on bail from the court of law, there is not much hope. Hopefully, the government does bring Zainab’s culprit to the book and creates an example out of him.

–The writer is a freelance

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