THE horrific rape-murder of little Zainab continues to be front and centre in the public consciousness.

Following days of protests in several parts of the country triggered by the discovery of her brutalised body, the demand for her killer to be identified and brought to justice quickly remains as strong as ever.

The evidence so far, according to the police, indicates that Zainab is the latest victim of a serial killer. Another piece of important evidence is CCTV footage, of which three clips have been aired in the media.

The first and second videos, both released by police, show the little girl in the company of the apparent killer, in one of them being led by the hand, and another in which she is walking alongside him.

The third video, which surfaced on social media on Saturday, showed a lone man, the purported murderer, strolling by himself down a street.

This last video, which has evidently been leaked to the media could, according to area people, create confusion because the individual in it looks different from the earlier clips; moreover, the location is far from Zainab’s home.

The widespread anguish over the as yet unsolved murder is very understandable.

However, it seems the police, in response to the justified furore over its failure to investigate earlier similar cases in the same area, has gone into overdrive in an effort to appear proactive.

Such a diametrically opposite approach to its earlier, inexcusable apathy is not necessarily desirable. To carry out a sound investigation that builds a prosecutable case, a methodical, dispassionate modus operandi — rather than one propelled by public sentiment — is essential.

Various political parties and pressure groups are also playing their role in stoking the vigilante-like atmosphere by co-opting the ‘justice for Zainab’ rallying cry and exploiting the tragedy for political gain.

The child’s murder was heinous; the killer must be apprehended; and police protocols reformed — not because the public demands it but because that is the right and just thing to do.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2018

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