Justice for Zainab

Let her death be catharsis rather than a footnote, and Pakistan move to being a better, safer, place for its children?

Editorial February 18, 2018

It is fair to say that no criminal case in recent memory has stirred the national consciousness — and conscience — like that of Zainab. She was raped, murdered and her body thrown on a rubbish heap. Her death was one of a string of similar killings and it became clear that a serial killer or killers were at work in the Kasur area. Her death was widely reported nationally and internationally and a deep and genuine sense of horror and outrage spurred usually sluggish and dilatory agencies into eventually fruitful action. Along the way there were calls for the reinstatement of public execution not only for the killer of Zainab but others as well. A man was caught, identified from the CCTV as well as his own clothing and eventually by DNA testing. He swiftly confessed to raping and killing Zainab and eventually to other rapes and murders as well. On Saturday, February 17th an Anti-terrorism Court handed down death sentence on four counts to Imran Ali who now has 15 days in which to file an appeal.

Thus ends, for now, the judicial aspect of the case and in that sense justice can be said to have been seen to have been done. But justice for Zainab is in truth going to be a long time coming, years and possibly decades, before paradigms shift and mindsets alter. Before police procedurals match international standards. Before child protection legislation is nationally enacted and enforced. Before children reporting sexual abuse are believed unreservedly — they do not make it up. They tell the truth. Before the law is changed to forbid the ‘forgiveness’ of those that abuse children in any way and not only sexually. Before the media shed a tendency to blame the victims of sexual abuse. Before there is a national programme in schools, all schools, of sex education and the inculcation of the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touching. If all that and more can be achieved then there will have been justice for Zainab. Let her death be catharsis rather than a footnote, and Pakistan move to being a better, safer, place for its children?

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2018.

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