KASUR - Murder of nearly a dozen children, especially the recent one, after sexual assault in the city of Saint Baba Bulleh Shah over the past one and half years has saddened the whole country.

Despite all-out efforts being made by the law enforcement agencies, the murderers are still at large.

The recent such incident in which a seven-year-old minor girl, Zainab, was kidnapped, raped and strangled, is not the first incident in Kasur district. According to a survey conducted by this correspondent, at least 12 children become victim of sexual assault across the country on daily basis.

The survey report reveals that the previous year has witnessed a significant rise in the crime which concerns people greatly. A total of 453 cases relating to child abuse had been reported across the country during the year 2017.

Almost 90 per cent culprits wanted in these cases could not be arrested which speaks volumes about the government’s ‘performance’. The reason behind increase in child abuse cases is that the culprits easily escape punishment. They survey pinpoints that Punjab ranks first in child abuse cases and during last year, there had been reported a 10 per cent increase in the province in these cases. Amidst government’s slackness, parents will have to shoulder more responsibility for the protection of their children.

The rape-cum-murder incidents happening over the past two years in Kasur recall the biggest sex scandal in the history of Pakistan. In 2015, a gang allegedly involved in forcing children to be abused at a small town, Rao Hussain Khanewala, was busted. The gang had also filmed over 250 children being sexually abused. The gang then used the videos to extort money from the affected families, threatening to release them publicly and shame their children and their relatives. The gang members also forced the children to steal jewellery from their own families. It was their “business”. The scandal had not only stunned the whole world but also tarnished the image of Pakistan. The gang members were arrested after the scandal unearthed. They were imprisoned and are now in jail untouched.

Talking to The Nation, residents of Kasur district said, “Had the government awarded the suspects exemplary punishment, the scandal would not have been followed by killings of minor children after rape.” They said such incidents occur worldwide but in other countries, the suspects are awarded stern punishment and are made example for others. Unfortunately in Pakistan, people involved in such horrible crimes manage to avoid sentence due to political influence. There are laws in our country but implementation of these laws is still a dream which is yet to be materialised. “In our country, there is a system of taking notice and issuing directions after emergence of a big problem without making efforts to ensure justice,” they said and adding that the authorities’ negligence to ensure justice in cases relating to public problems has lifted the masses’ confidence in rulers and the law-enforcement. “This is why people take to roads because they are denied justice,” they pointed out.

Investigation has revealed that Zainab was on the way to her aunt’s house for studying Quran in a cold evening of January 4. She was accompanied by her cousin. As Zainab was playing on the way so she had been left behind and her cousin reached the house. The aunt asked about Zainab. Her cousin replied that she was coming but she did not reach the house which raised serious concerns among the family. Zainab’s parents were in Saudi Arabia on Umrah pilgrimage. So the girl’s relatives started searching her but failed. The police were also informed about missing of the girl but all the efforts could not prove fruitful. Four days later (on January 9), a minor girl was found dead at a pile of trash near Kashmir Chowk, Shehbaz Road. The girl was identified as Zainab by the relatives. She was shifted to Kasur District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital for post-mortem. According to the autopsy report, Zainab was strangled after two days of abduction. Her neck was broken. Her face was carrying torture marks. The autopsy confirmed that the girl was raped before murder.

Her death stirred violent protests across Kasur district. The business community observed a complete shutdown in the district. People, enraged over the incident, took to roads. They blocked roads for traffic in protest. They reached outside the office of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Saira Umar; chanted slogans against the authorities for their negligence. The police had locked the gates of the DC office but the protesters broke into the office. Upon this, police opened fire on protestors. Resultantly, two persons were killed while seven others sustained critical injures in firing by the police. It worsened the situation. The deceased were identified as Muhammad Ali, 45, resident of Kot Amir Baz Khan and Shoaib, 22, resident of Kot Islam Fateh Din. They were shifted to mortuary of Kasur District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital. But people took the bodies out of the mortuary; put them on road and protested against the administration. The angry protestors also vandalised the public property and pelted policemen with stones. The protestors also captured at least a dozen policemen and subjected them to physical torture. People carrying sticks also attacked the outhouse of local PML-N MPA Naeem Safdar Ansari and set ablaze a car and furniture there. They pelted stones at Kasur DHQ Hospital. They entered the hospital and ransacked the equipment. They were demanding early arrest and exemplary punishment to the murderers of the minor girl. They were also demanding action against the officers including SHO Saddr police Malik Tariq, A-Division police SHO Imran Saeed and Deputy Commissioner Saira Umar on whose orders the police had shot dead two citizens. The violent protests and traders’ strike had kept Kasur crippled for two days. The routine life restored on fourth day (Friday) and situation returned to normalcy after Rangers personnel took over security of state buildings. The Rangers personnel along with policemen also conducted flag march in Kasur city and did not allow anyone to damage state buildings.

The deceased including Zainab, Imran and Shoaib had been laid to rest amidst sigh and tears. Since day one, prominent political figures of the country are visiting bereaved families of the deceased, expressing their condolences over tragic death of their beloved and urging the government to provide the families with justice.