There are no words to express the grief, the shock, and the anger that people of Pakistan feels at the death of Zainab Amin. There is no version of prose, or verses of poetry, that can express the pain.

The facts of the case – to the extent known – are agonizingly straightforward: Zainab, a seven-year old girl from Kasur, went missing from home, while her parents were away on Umrah. Her uncle – temporary guardian for the duration that her parents were away – claims to have approached the local police for registration of a FIR, but (initially) to no avail. However, on 5th January, a missing person FIR was finally registered, but the concerned DPO refused to pursue the matter with any zeal. Apparently, one small girl being missing was ‘no big deal’ for a police department that is too busy protecting King and country. Later, on Tuesday of this week, Zainab’s body was found dumped in a heap of trash – raped, pillaged and murdered. CCTV footage reveals the girl being led away, through the streets of Kasur, by a suspect who is still at large. And sadly, this is not the first instance of child abuse and murder in the city of Bulleh Shah in recent months. Per official record, Zainab’s murder was the 12th such case that has occurred, within a two-kilometer radius of the city, over the last year.

As news of the tragedy spread, protests broke out throughout Kasur. Relatives, friends, neighbors, fellow human beings, all came out into the streets, demanding justice for Zainab, and for several under faceless children who met a similar fate. Within hours, the protesting mob turned towards the office and residence of governmental officials. As people wielded batons and pelted stones, the police retaliated with live fire; initially aerial firing, followed by horizontal live ammunition. In scene that brought back the pain of the Model Town massacre, Punjab Police shot and killed two of the protestors. Who gave the orders? Was it really self-defense? Why were softer means of dispersing the crowd not adopted? No one knows.

In the hours that followed, public pressure resulted in registration of FIRs against police personnel who fired at the protesters. A few constables were arrested, but no one of consequence has been brought to light. Everyone – from the Chief Minister to the Chief Justice and the Army Chief – took “notice of the situation”. High level meetings were held. Suo moto action was taken. A JIT was constituted. Journalists, celebrities and activists held vigils. However, the culprits remain at large… and so does the elusive goal of justice.

Much has been said and written about the ongoing investigation, the role of police, and the complicity of our political elite in allowing such events to continuously take place, with impunity. And, in the days to come, much more will need to be said about reforming the porous veins of our criminal justice system.

For now, however, what requires special attention is the absolute inability of our political elite – and in particular the likes of Rana Sanaullah – to accept moral, political and legal responsibility for this and other such events.

Rana Sahib (and the word ‘Sahib’ here is entirely undeserved), by virtue of his political post, is responsible for the life and security of the residents of Punjab. And yet, day after day, week after week, month after month, he continues to laugh in the face of this legal, political and moral responsibility. Everything – from the killings in Model Town to the lawlessness in Kasur – is someone else’s fault. According to Rana (not Sahib) it is either the doing of Tahir-ul-Qadri, or Imran Khan, or some ludicrous conspiracy being hatched against him. He once proudly commented that he is not bothered by calls of him resigning; in fact, he claims to be bothered the day people are not clamoring for his resignation. How comforting.

So we must ask Rana a simple question: what will be enough to shame you? How many people, massacred in the streets of Lahore, will cause a jolt in your conscience? Well, conscience might be asking too much; instead, lets say this: how many innocent lives will cause you to feign concern? How many children kidnapped, raped and killed and Kasur will cause you to reflect on the abomination of your office? How many protesters, shot in the streets, will compel you to wipe that smug grin? How many people, clamoring for justice, will rid this nation of the scourge that is your tenure? How many JIT reports, and pieces of evidence in Kasur sodomy case, will you hide? How long will the FIRs, registered against you, remain dormant? How long will your political office save you from the inevitability of eternal justice?

The public mayhem and vigilante protests, being witnessed across the streets of Pakistan, are not simply the reaction to one murder. They are the outcry of a people who have suffered the injustice of our political reality for too long. They are not just protesting for Zainab alone. They are clamoring for the fourteen martyrs of Model Town, for Shahzeb Khan, for Qandeel Baloch, for the police constable in Quetta who was killed by Abdul Majeed Achakzai, for the boy who was trampled to death by Nawaz Sharif’s cavalcade, for those martyred in Quetta and Parachinar, for the children sodomized in Punjab, for the acid victims of Sindh, for the children who died of famine in Tharparkar, for the victims of Joseph Colony, for those found in body bags in Karachi, and the hundreds who were burned alive in Baldia Factory.

Maybe our corridors of political power are immune to the cries of a grieving citizenry. Maybe our system of governance is beyond redemption. Maybe we are cursed to live and die, each moment, in silent despair. Maybe the few voices that muster the courage to speak, will have no impact in the face of entrenched insolence.

If that be the case, let us hold onto our grudges for that final Court of Justice. For the day that “when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked, ‘for what sin she was killed” (Quran 81, 8-9).


The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore. He has a Masters in Constitutional Law from Harvard Law School.