In the space of a single week, three children under 10 years have been horribly murdered. A seven-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and then beaten to death with stones in Hafizabad district on January 7. Three days earlier, a boy was sexually assaulted and then hanged on the upper floor of a mosque in Lahore. The horror and degradation of the incident were compounded by pictures of the child, grotesquely suspended, being circulated on social media. A toddler was abducted close to her home, again sexually assaulted and was killed by having her throat cut. In the case of the girl who was killed in Hafizabad, the parents are accusing the police of being dilatory and failing to search for the child when she was reported missing. These three killings are characterised by their brutality. In each case, the child was made to suffer before he/she died, to be repeatedly abused. Their killers would have been aware of their cries and struggles.
It is extremely difficult to gather accurate data on the incidence of child murders in Pakistan, either by province or nationally. Such data as there is, is aggregated from open sources by NGOs and human rights bodies, and is unlikely to be a true reflection of the overall picture. What is clear is that there is an increase in the reporting of child murders, but whether that reflects an increase in their incidence is uncertain as there is no baseline data of sufficient quality to extrapolate against. This is a matter of such gravity and concern that it merits action at the federal level at least as far as data collection and analysis is concerned. The government should also consider a public awareness campaign on ‘keeping children safe’ and how to minimise the risks to children. If a single week is any measure, then at least 150 children a year are being murdered — and the true figure is almost certainly higher than that. What drives the murderers to commit acts of such depravity is a question largely un-pursued, but it needs to be both asked and answered.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.
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