EARLIER this week, an anti-terrorism court in Lahore handed down the death penalty to Sohail Shahzad, who was convicted for kidnapping, raping and killing eight-year-old Faizan. The victim had gone missing with three other young boys in mid-September in Chunian, Kasur district. While this newspaper does not endorse capital punishment, the investigation of the case could serve as an example for law-enforcement officials who are dealing with such cases in other parts of the country. However, this small victory should not give the authorities reason for complacency.
The move to reform the district police in Kasur should not lose steam and police officers must remain vigilant. The repeated instances of gruesome cases of child sexual abuse from the same area, combined with a list of 3,000 ‘bad characters’ — with suspected links to sexual crimes — prepared by the district police, means that there could be scores of other abused children in need of help but who remain silent. It should be remembered that though this particular case has reached its conclusion, promised steps such as the revival of child protection bureaus remain unfulfilled as do the pledges of additional material and human resources for the district police.
Similarly, the authorities, and society would do well constantly remind themselves that catching and awarding capital punishment to a child rapist-cum-killer does not necessarily guarantee a safe future for other children in the country. Instead, it is necessary to break our silence on the subject — unless there is a sustained discussion, sexual abuse cases will be ‘normalised’ as part of the societal makeup, and the perpetrators will strike again and again. According to the NGO Sahil, some 1,300 cases of child sexual abuse have been recorded across the country in the first six months of this year alone, but given the culture of silence around the subject these may be only a fraction of the actual number of incidents. This troubling fact alone should galvanise our law enforcers to crack down on the criminals.
Published in Dawn, December 21st, 2019