The story of the murder and abuse of little Zainab in Kasur opened up an entire debate about one of the ugliest truths of Pakistani society – one that we had conveniently pushed under the rug and portrayed as if all was fine. Sexual abuse and sexual assault are a reality of the Pakistani society – one that we do not like to discuss or penalise individuals for out of fear of losing a family’s honor. The execution of Zainab’s murderer, Imran Ali, in Kot Lakpat Jail sets the precedent right for those who think they can violate individuals as they please without having to think about consequences, and the society, for the longest time, had given them the space to act this way but with the story making it to all platforms, it pushed for better legislation and investigative methods to ensure that these individuals do not go scot-free.
The case, however, does not come to an end with the execution of Imran Ali because there are many like him out in the society moving around and preying on those who do not have a voice. And there are many little girls and boys who are in danger and are violated time and again. This case should prompt the authorities to understand how deep the problem runs into society. This would require extensive on ground research and a dedicated force to fight such crimes. Investigative methods also need to be upgraded – for example, the use of forensic evidence is very important in such cases but Pakistani authorities still lack the required equipment and knowledge for its use.
Overcoming these minor barriers can change the layout of the society altogether. Another important step in this regard is to start the dialogue related to sexual harassment and sexual abuse. The recent case of Meesha Shafi was dropped because the accused was not in a working relationship with her. This shows the limitations of the legal structure that the country has. If both the legislature and its implementation are improved, the situation can change for those who take advantage of it. A system of accountability must also be established to ensure that these criminals are not offered political protection due to their influence – because this prevented the Kasur sex offenders from being penalised. Lastly, the government made the right decision by not airing the execution because the answer does not lie in such gestures rather it lies in empowering the system to prosecute abusers.