Zainab, Naqeebullah Mehsud, Rao Anwer and Dr Shahid Masood— four faces, four stories. Each one of them is a reflection of the unjust system this society has borne for 70 years. They had been turned into liabilities, instead of asset that they were meant to be. Each of them has exposed our hypocrisies. And the irony is that none of them can be ignored. Not at least now, when the country is evolving, from years of deceit and deception, to a state where the process of accountability has self-wheeled into every part of society. These are exciting times for Pakistan. The nation has rejected the manipulated and engineered system and is groping for a right replacement. Until we reach there, let us first see what each of these faces tells about us.
Zainab was a seven years old girl who had been killed by her rapist and dumped on the heaps of garbage later to be traced by police who had been sitting on such cases, in Kasur, for years now. It was revealed by an investigative story in this newspaper in 2014 that Kasur runs Pakistan largest child pornography network and that close to 300 children had so far been molested by that gang. These kids were picked, sodomized, filmed and later blackmailed. Polices’ complicity was established, and there was an uproar in media for the apathy shown by the Punjab government. Steadily, the case was forgotten, and at one point it was also said that the reporting on the issue was not that accurate. Rana Sanaullah, Punjab’s law minister, called the issue a land dispute. The tremor however refused to disappear and shook Kasur with more vengeance as Zainab’s body was recovered in the most inhuman condition. According to Sahil, a non-governmental organization working on children’s rights, 11 cases of child sexual abuse are reported from across Pakistan every day. Only in Kasur, where Zainab lived, past twelve months had been horrific for girls; almost 12 of them had so far been killed after rape. According to Save the Children, 43 per cent of girls and boys are out of school in Pakistan and of every 1,000 children 81 die before the age of 5 years. The data compiled by the Child Rights Movements shows that 12.5 million children are involved in child labour in this country. All these facts are indicators to the reality that the fundamental rights of the children are not protected in Pakistan. The right to education, right to a healthy childhood and the right to dignity, all are violated, while the state only responds when reaction towards child abuse stirs it. Children, the future of any country, treated in such a way, reveals a lot about priorities and style of governance of the ruling elite.
This brings us to the second and third face of the story, Rao Anwer and Naqeebullah Mehsood. SP Rao is on the run to save his skin from the wrath of the judiciary. He is wanted in the murder of an innocent boy Naqeebullah Mehsood in a police encounter. Human rights violations are permissible only in societies where laws are flaunted and misused easily. Not that Pakistan’s legal order does not prohibit child abuse, or murder in police custody. Not that Pakistan government whose leadership is more at home to the western lifestyle than the Pakistani culture, do not know that behind every progressive and civilized society are institutions known for their integrity and justice. Police, like every institution in Pakistan has been hijacked by the politicians with the result that it has only one mission: to keep the nuisance value of society at a level where it neither stirs the conscience of our lawmakers nor puts them to the trouble to think ahead and anew. To achieve this mission police has been using torture as an instrument of governance. For the criminal justice system, the structure and performance of police is the bedrock. When police fails, the criminal justice system breaks down. The untrained and ill-equipped police, as the reputation goes, resort to encounters to get rid of criminals. Knowing their incapacity and lethargy to gather enough evidence to get the suspect convicted, the preferred technique has been to kill criminals in fake encounters. Karachi a city of violence, and target killing, became the favourite place for such encounters. It was here that Naqeebullah fell to one such bullet. An aspiring 27 years old young boy, killed because his sir name raised hackles and suspicion——another foul thinking, though. Naqeebullah was picked from his shop and later killed. He was linked to Taliban without proof. Not only that, his identity was withheld until his relatives recognized him from his hands from among the corpses of the terrorists, Rao had killed that fateful day along with Naqeebullah. According to Research and Securities Studies, more than 300 encounters had been conducted in Karachi in 2017. Human Rights activist, Jibran Nasir claims that since 2009 Rao had conducted 69 police encounter killing 262 people. The law came into action, not until the Mehsuds living in Karachi, and all those who had been suffering from Roa’s slanderous ways for the last ten years in Malir, raised voice. Zainab and Naqeeb had been victim of Pakistan’s fractured police and judicial system. Had the police and the prosecution system been efficient, neither the serial killer who killed Zainab nor the weak judicial system that gave leverage to officers like Rao, to kill Naqeebullah with impunity, would have survived so long. Societies where laws are compromised, ethics and values too take back seat. This is what has happened to media as well, and that explains our fourth protagonist, Dr Shahid Masood.
For long the doctor turned TV anchor, Shahid Masood, has been criticised for spreading rumors, and fake news in his talk shows. However, Masood’s role in the Zainab murder case has been malfeasant for two reasons. One, it diverted the direction of the case from Zainab to the unethical journalism prevalent in Pakistan. Two, it muddied the case which otherwise would have exposed Punjab government’s inability to solve previous rape cases involving children, while ascertaining that the suspect Imran, is the actual killer of Zainab and other six girls. Even if Masood had the information that Imran owned 38 bank accounts and that a federal minister was involved, he could have waited for the right time to use these facts. It would have further strengthened the case. In Masood we find the role of media skewed to serve different power players.
Zainab and Naqeebullah are victims of the system where people like Rao Anwer and Dr Shahid Masood are tolerated to keep the country in a state of continuous disorder. Chaos suits a system where power is dispersed among many players, vying for more control at the expense of others. Police and media are two links that can help this disorder either disappear or persist. The ball is in the court of the state, to see to it that these four faces of Pakistan never ever become the reason to tarnish the image of Pakistan.