Kasur’s fault line

September 19, 2019

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ONCE again, protests have erupted in the city of Kasur over the sexual abuse and murder of children, and parents are forced to relive their worst nightmare, as painful memories of the not-too-distant past resurface. On Tuesday, the bodies of three out of a reported five missing boys were discovered in Chunian tehsil: eight-year-old Faizan and Suleman Akram, and nine-year-old Ali Husnain. Kasur’s trade and local bar associations have called for a strike until arrests are carried out. Following these calls for strikes and agitation from the public — which saw protesters pelting stones at a police station, burning tyres, shutting down shops, and blocking roads — the Punjab police have suspended two of its officials for failing to carry out their duty to protect and serve the public. They also claim to have detained several suspects in connection with the murder of the children, and will be carrying out DNA tests soon. Such knee-jerk efforts may or may not deliver justice, but they certainly help in managing public perceptions.

In 2015, the country was shaken when news of hundreds of videos of young children being forced to perform sexual acts on adults surfaced. These videos were allegedly sold in the market or used to blackmail the parents of the children. If the protesting parents had not clashed with the police, who had previously dismissed their pain and cries for justice, it is likely that the scale of the abuse would never have been unearthed. But even then, the alleged high-profile patrons in power or with close links to those in power were never arrested. Then came the news of the horrific rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari in 2017, which led to even greater outrage, with countrywide protests and increased pressure on the PML-N government. In an attempt to assuage the protests, the then Punjab government hastily carried out the execution of one Imran Ali, who the court found guilty of rape and murder. But the problem did not end there — even if it silenced the protesters for the time being. In December 2018, four other people were arrested for purchasing minor girls for prostitution in Kasur. Clearly, the scale of the rot is extensive for such incidents to keep happening over and over again in one part of the country. Indeed, the sexual abuse of children is Pakistan’s hidden shame.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019