Extreme excitement or pain often leaves people speechless. I woke up to the latter on January 10th. Innocent eight-year-old Zainab was raped, killed and thrown in the trash in Kasur. This is the 11th known case of abduction, rape and murder of a child in the city only this past year. The district is also responsible for the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history and yet no steps have been taken to ensure that an incident like this never takes place again.
The first instance of such an incident should raise an alarm loud enough to ring an emergency. Clearly, this crime has become a trend in Kasur and it calls for a public hanging. The punishment needs to be brutal enough for people to remember it for years to come. It needs to be so brutal that whenever a demon comes close to a child to abuse them, the thought of the punishment scares him to take his steps back. A precedent of this took place in Iran when a seven-year-old was assaulted, killed and bumped off, the culprit was openly hanged in front of a large crowd.
However, a public hanging is just a short-term solution. We need to understand the root cause of the matter. What could lead a human being to commit such a heinous act? There must be some emotional, mental or physical distress that is leading someone to inflict so much pain on someone else and their family? A normal and stable human being cannot do that. We need to find the root cause and eradicate that.
If these crimes and acts are caused because of lack of education, we need to build more schools and educate more people. If they are caused due to lack of employment, we must develop employment opportunities and provide vocational skills to people. If they are caused due to frustration and mental stress, then that must be addressed. We cannot continue to raise a generation of demons that abuse our children. This needs to stop right here.
Every time something like this happens the nation pours its collective apathy through protests, outbursts on social media and campaigns. But it is now time for us to take the next step because collective apathy has started failing us.
The state not only needs to eradicate such acts but also train police on how to deal with such situations. The Punjab police tried to silence protestors demanding action against perpetrators of the brutal rape and murder of Zainab. Two people died when the police opened fire on the protestors. This is outrageous and it is not the first time that it has happened. The state needs to re-evaluate its actions. It should resolve to protect innocent children rather than siding with rapists by silencing protests and losing more precious lives that stand up for the truth and what is right. The police need to be educated on how to handle protestors. Opening fire is not the solution and there needs to be some accountability if the police opt for it.
There was a day when Kasur was known as the city of Bulleh Shah that embodied spirituality and poetry. Today, Kasur is facing a horrible time in history when its children are being abused, raped and murdered. The cries of Kasur are mummed and its sorrows are unheard. I wonder what has gone wrong. When did we fail to nurture, enlighten and develop the minds of people of Kasur? Maybe we need to correct our ways, develop the minds of people in the region and eradicate frustration.
People have been asking who was Zainab’s custodian while her parents went to perform Umrah? There is only one unfortunate answer to that question — the nation that failed her. The only justice this nation can give Zainab is that no other child on this soil ever gets to experience what she did.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2018.