KASUR is once again the scene of a depraved crime against a child. The rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab is a grotesque illustration of the state’s increasing disconnect with the people.
The little girl went missing last Thursday, abducted while on her way to a religious tuition centre; her brutalised body was found on Wednesday, discarded on a heap of garbage.
In 2015, horrific details emerged of a child pornography ring that had been preying for years on several minors in Kasur district, making videos in which the victims were coerced into performing sex acts.
Despite the outrage triggered by that case, the criminal justice system remains as dysfunctional as ever. For Zainab’s abduction and rape is reportedly preceded by no less than 12 similar cases — still unsolved — within a two-kilometre radius in Kasur city during the past two years.
But this time, public anger spilled over on the streets of Punjab with riots continuing into the second day. Police firing into the crowd of protesters left two people dead.
No matter which society, crimes against children evoke an especially acute horror. In Pakistan, that initial revulsion comes up against a state callously indifferent to its duty to protect citizens, even the younger segment of the population.
Criminal investigations are not of a standard that can lead to prosecutions; traumatised child victims are not handled with sensitivity by the police, nor does the latter liaise with organisations trained in rape counselling who can help these minors deal with their ordeal.
Law enforcement’s lackadaisical attitude, which is of course generally applicable to crimes across the board — is born out of the knowledge that there will be absolutely no repercussions for their failure to properly compile and analyse evidence, an approach that takes time and discipline.
After the child porn ring was unearthed in Kasur, years after it had claimed its first victims, one would have imagined that the police would have expended every effort to track down the individuals responsible for the rape and abduction, and in some cases murder, of so many other girls in the same area.
Meanwhile, as seen time and again, brute force is often the tactic of choice to deal with public protests.
Again, it is the easy way out. Endemic abuse of power and lack of justice have left society seething with pent-up frustration, an impotent rage that spills over into mob violence as witnessed over the last two days.
While such mayhem cannot be condoned, it arises from very legitimate, yet unmet, expectations.
The criminal justice system must be overhauled and reformed to serve the people. Underscoring the scale of the problem, the bodies of two more child rape victims surfaced yesterday in parts of Punjab other than Kasur.
The paedophiles that live amongst us should no longer be able to freely walk the streets.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018
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