DUBAI: Actor Ahsan Khan expressed his grief, anger and sadness over the heartbreaking news of seven-year-old Zainab being raped and murdered in Kasur.
The body of the youngster was found in a rubbish dump on Tuesday, several days after she went missing. She had been raped and strangled.
Angry demonstrators say the authorities are doing little to stem the spate of abductions, sexual assaults and killings in the region. Police in Kasur say there have been 12 similar cases in the past two years, with five of them linked to one suspect who is being hunted by hundreds of officers.
DNA samples have also been taken from 90 other possible suspects. Two protesters were killed after police shot at an angry crowd attempting to storm a police headquarters in Kasur, about 20 kilometres south of Lahore.
Zainab’s murder has sparked outrage across the country. Well-known film and cricket luminaries demanded her killer be caught and the military has offered its support to the police as well.
The victim’s family says the police did not take action after they reported her disappearance and it was her relatives who recovered CCTV footage of her movements before she disappeared. The footage, showing a girl being led by the hand by a man, is being circulated widely on social media.
“If the police would have acted immediately, the culprit would have been caught,” Zainab’s father stated as he arrived back in the capital Islamabad from Saudi Arabia, where he had been on pilgrimage.
Ahsan, who played a child abuser in the drama Udaari, spoke out about Zainab and the condemnable incident, saying, “I have no words and statements to express the grief I feel right now. As a parent and as a member of this society, I am ashamed.”
The actor has been vocal about various social issues in the past, child abuse in particular. His role in Udaari was controversial to say the least, as PEMRA received many complaints about how a step father (Imtiaz, as played by Ahsan) was attempting to abuse his adopted daughter. Ahsan, never having played a negative role before, chose to do the serial because he felt it was important to talk about such matters and raise awareness.
“I am ashamed that we have failed a little girl who faced the worst fate imaginable. I am ashamed that we are living in a society that allowed this to happen. I cannot fathom, I cannot understand how I can talk about this little girl, this beautiful perfect little human being named Zainab who was attacked brutally and murdered,” added Ahsan.
He continued, “As artists, we like to think that we’re making a difference in the world by starting conversations and speaking up about subjects, about expressing ourselves and our ideas in a way that helps make the world a better place. But today, I feel everything we have strived to achieve is suspended in the face of what has happened.”
“I shift between rage and helplessness. I am angry at the many ways in which we failed Zainab. We failed by not making better laws, better environments. We didn’t make our society a safe space for our children; we didn’t have enough awareness; we didn’t talk enough, raise consciousness enough,” he exclaimed.
“We are now facing the result of years of ignorance and callousness that we, as a society, have built, brick by brick. We need to stop this from happening again. We need to say ‘this is it’. And we need to stop the silence surrounding sexual abuse,” stated Ahsan.
Following the news and outcry on TV and social media, there was also an altercation between the government and the protestors in Kasur. Addressing that, Ahsan said, “The aggression we see on the screen is genuine. We have to look at Zainab’s case and create this as an example as to how we can create resolutions to protect our children.”
The star added, “If you look at Kasur, especially. We have to ask ourselves and our government why hasn’t there been a proper follow-up? Why wasn’t there any clarity on the child abuse scandal that came out in the same place a while ago?”
Nonetheless, Ahsan thanked the media for speaking out. “People have spoken out. But, sadly, we learn nothing. Our morning shows, our news channels aren’t educating the people about these issues. We get trapped in the same cycle of mindless entertainment. We sing and dance on morning shows but we aren’t educating or talking to people about substantial issues.”
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