Another innocent child abused and killed, another few days of hue and cry on television screens, high profile visits and inquiries, and then it is business as usual.
The demand for justice for Zainab, the seven-year-old from Kasur who was raped and killed, and her body thrown in the trash, will just become a slogan for politicians and civil society workers. After all, we don’t even remember what happened to the similar cases of nine-year old Tayyaba, six-year-old Tooba or eight-year-old Imran.
Zainab’s body was recovered on January 10, six days after she went missing. Her autopsy suggested that she was raped before being strangled to death. This is not the first such case to have happened in the country. In Kasur alone, there have been at least eight such cases, which according to the police, were all carried out by one culprit.
There are several reasons for the failure of the government to control cases of child abuse — one of the most important ones being the inability to give exemplary punishment to the culprits even if they are caught. Political influence over the police also means many criminals are not even apprehended. Zainab’s case has drawn a lot of attention, including a suo motu notice by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, raising hopes that this time around the culprit will be brought to task.
Leader, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf
“Unfortunately, the state is not doing what it must do. Lately, an alarming 284 sexual abuse cases were recorded across the country, indicating a mega failure both on the part of the government and the police department.
It is very crucial to bring reforms at every level. Firstly, the government should ensure controlling the politicisation of the police department, because large scale law and order situations cannot be handled by individuals. Secondly, counselling of households is a dire need of the time; separate counselling sessions should be designed for parents and, for children, a comprehensive awareness program ought to be included in their curriculum. Whereas for traumatised children, special therapies and psychiatric treatment should be provided. Lastly, civil society also needs to play an active role. Perhaps, they can establish a system of community policing in their respective areas, which can timely spot any suspicious activity.”
Senior Advocate Supreme Court
“There should be a better and enhanced executive framework for the law enforcement agencies to tackle sexual assaults on minors. We should look around and learn from the rest of the world about their strategies and approaches. In other countries, for cases pertaining to the abduction of children, a central command of police is always on high alert, which takes immediate action and brings all the police machinery into operation. Similar mechanisms should be devised in our country that can act independently and instantaneously, instead of relying on the SHO (Station House Officer).
Moreover, implementation of the existing law is extremely vital in order to set an example for such criminals. In addition, the parliament should also make an effort to set up special courts for speedy trials in such cases. Because justice delayed is justice denied.”
Former Director, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
“It is heart wrenching to recall that before Zainab, there were numerous others who were traumatised and killed just like her. People are running out of patience over such unendurable incidents taking place every now and then. These cases have, once again, highlighted the major flaws and weaknesses in our system.
Exemplary punishment for such criminals is definitely unquestionable, but this alone would not solve the problem. We need to study those encouraging factors which instigate people to commit such heinous crimes. The most important thing to note here is that when you disregard a woman and degrade her in society, she becomes easy prey for such malevolent people.
The government, civil society and all other concerned institutions should work together to eradicate this menace.”
Tahir Alam Khan
Former Inspector General of Police, Islamabad
“Amid all other factors, frustration and other mental illnesses are of paramount importance while recognising the key elements behind such unfortunate occurrences.
According to the Police Charter of 2002, it is the responsibility of the police to secure women and children from harassment at public places. However, public can also help prevent such incidents by informing police, if they encounter any notorious activity somewhere. The problem with our police is that they are usually laid back during the course of investigation if a child goes missing. It is an obligation on the police’s part, specifically in such cases, to ensure an in-depth and expeditious investigation. If the investigation is carried out painstakingly, a strong case can be easily prepared against the culprit which would leave no room for him to escape punishment.
Recently, a section of the law, 377-A, has been added to the Pakistan Penal Code, according to which the offender shall be imprisoned to a term up to seven years. Awareness of such laws among locals, can be a constructive step towards purifying society from this immorality.”