Our law minister, that shining ray of truth and justice in the dark days we see on an all-too-regular basis, thinks that when bad things happen to children, their parents are to blame. One would almost think he didn’t have any children himself, because this is precisely the kind of pompous, supercilious things child-free people say. Everyone else who is involved in the raising of children know the truth: that you keep doing the best you can and pray it will be enough. And it usually is, until it isn’t—because parents are human, and humans are not perfect. You cannot be everywhere all the time. You can be in the same house and something awful could happen to your child. Something could happen in front of your eyes, or a foot away from you at that, and sometimes you cannot stop it. We deify parents as some kind of demi-gods who never put a foot wrong, who never lie or cheat or do things that are downright bad and yes, some parents are truly bad ones. Some parents are horrible people who should never have been allowed to procreate but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to judge other people, other parents, for what they did or didn’t do. Nobody willfully puts their child in harm’s way, even if it looks like it to us. Nobody actively says to themselves “well, it’s risky but I’ll take a chance with my child’s safety”. If your child is cycling outside your house, in your lane, have you endangered them? No, not really. But if an ice-cream guy comes into the lane and says something disgusting to your child—then what? Did you actively send your child into a dangerous situation? Are you now a heinous person who threw their child into jeopardy? Whose fault is it, yours or that ice-cream guy’s?

This is the problem with us. When unspeakable things happen to innocents, whatever their age or background, we leap to the wrong judgements. We say shame on the parents, for their negligence. We say shame on strangers, for not speaking up when they see something suspicious happening around them. And then we say shame on the perpetrator, but of course we do. Then we meander back to parents and the home, and cretinous things are said, like “dress girls modestly so they aren’t attacked”, or “television is making monsters of us” or “don’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time”. What we never say is that the problem is violence, the people who inflict it on others and the people who let it happen. Many people have wondered why little Zainab Ansari was walking to her Quran lesson alone, with its undertone of “bad parents, negligent family” but nobody has asked why on earth can’t a child be safe in her neighbourhood. The utter halfwits that comprise most of our television reporters have shoved microphones in Zainab’s her brother’s face, asking why he wasn’t a better brother. Her grieving, distraught mother has been filmed and broadcast nationwide keening for her child. And then our esteemed law minister, once sacked, once restored, the pinnacle of humanity, says it’s her fault.

Of course he would. It’s easier to blame someone else than to actually do your job and bring perpetrators to justice. Zainab Ansari is just one of many girls who have been similarly kidnapped, assaulted and left—if a news report is to be believed, on the same trash heap. Anywhere else in the world we would be searching for a serial killer, but here the best the law minister can do is say “be a better parent if you don’t want bad stuff to happen to your kid”. The child pornography ring in Kasur, Ansari’s hometown, was exposed in 2015 (it had been operating since 2006). Three years later, there has obviously been nothing done to help or protect any child there. Of course the police know what is going on—our police force is remarkably competent, despite all the jokes about their paunches and parathas. Of course the MPAs and MNAs are covering for each other—they are all from the same party, what a coincidence. The law minister maintained the 2015 expose was really just a land dispute, not a systemic horror show of abuse and depravity. Maybe if the authorities had really been serious about this, the crackdown in Kasur would have happened when it was meant to, and Zainab Ansari would be alive. Kainat Batool wouldn’t be in a catatonic state in a hospital bed, but at school like a six year old should be. We can hunt down terrorists hiding in caves, but we can’t round up and punish child molesters and their accomplices? That’s rubbish and we know it. Even now, with all the resources the provincial government is directing at Kasur, the emphasis is on catching the killer (assuming the rapist and killer is the same person). There will be some kind of pressurized, rushed-along hunt and God knows who will be caught and charged, but it’s all a performance to appease a furious public. Finding one man isn’t good enough. You don’t destroy a maggot infestation by stamping on one or two insects; you have to blast them at the source. And that means a focused, serious investigation that will probably put important men in hot water, which is the least they deserve, and will send guilty men to jail. And then maybe the children of Kasur can have their childhood back, and no parent will have to live with the agony of their child being hurt by someone—not been mercilessly raped, not have had their head bashed in with bricks, not strangled, not left in the garbage as if they were worthless, not abducted from fields and thrown on the roadside, haunted by fear. These are children, the same as yours, mine and Mr. Rana Sanaullah’s, and Mr Malik Ahmed Saeed’s.