KARACHI: The news of the abduction, rape, and brutal murder of eight-year-old Zainab has shaken the nation and triggered mass protests against police inaction in Kasur.
At least two people were killed, allegedly by police firing, as enraged residents attempted to storm the deputy commissioner’s office. Two others were reportedly injured in the clashes.
Uproar on mainstream and social media led to DPO Zulfiqar Hameed’s suspension, sou motu notices issued by the chief justices of the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court, and condemnation from all corners including civilian and military leaders.
The horrendous event brought flashbacks of the tormenting ordeal children in Kasur have had to go through for the past several years.
This was, however, not an isolated event, as over 720 incidents of such nature have been reported from Kasur in the last three years. This was also the 12th case of sexual abuse of a child reported from within a two-kilometre radius in the past 12 months.
Mumtaz Gohar, senior program officer at Sahil, told The Express Tribune that in 2017, a total of 129 cases of child assault were reported from Kasur alone. Of them, 34 were abductions, 23 were rapes, 19 sodomy, 17 attempted rapes, six abduction and rapes, and four abduction and gang-rapes.
2015 saw the most such incidents recorded, with a total of 451 cases of child abuse were registered in the area. The infamous Kasur child abuse scandal accounted for 285 of these cases.
A total of 141 cases were reported in 2016 from Kasur.
“If the victim will get justice and accused get punished, no such cases will be reported at all,” replied Gohar when asked why so many cases occur in Kasur and surrounding area.
He said there were several such cases pending in courts and victims were waiting to get justice. The statistics would be more staggering if all cases of such nature are reported, he added.
“There are many families who are reluctant to report sexual assault cases because of the social taboo attached to them They believe that such cases will bring only shame upon them,” he remarked.
Gohar pointed four main reasons behind a high number of such cases from the area.
Weak investigation system
From the time of lodging first information report (FIR) to when a case is presented in court, loopholes in the system leads to increasing number of culprits being acquitted, he said.
Gohar specifically pointed out incomplete or misleading information in the FIR as one of the main reason behind the weak prosecution.
Awareness on child protection
Parents and families in the area were not fully aware of the importance of keeping their children protected, said the NGO official. Strangers and distant acquaintances were easily trusted upon with children in the area, he added.
Gohar said the lengthy judicial process was one of the reasons not only behind why few cases are reported, but also weakly prosecuted, leading to more and more culprits being acquitted by courts.
Citing the example of the Kasur child pornography scandal, he said giving the benefit of the doubt, an anti-terrorism court had acquitted four suspects in August last year.
Parents and families were not fully aware of the importance of medical examinations of the victim without wasting time, said Gohar, adding that DNA and other tests can provide vital evidence.
With additional reporting from Sehrish Wasif in Islamabad