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Cases of child abuse are considered too routine to be reported in Pakistan

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Updated: February 10, 2018 8:51:29 am
Zainab rape and murder case in Pakistan People attend a funeral of a Pakistani girl who was raped and killed, in Kasur, Pakistan, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 (AP Photo/File)

Raping and killing of children has become a grave problem in Pakistan. After scores of cases in Punjab, three incidents were reported on January 28 from different districts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. A girl-child was kidnapped, raped and killed in Quetta, Balochistan. In Karachi, there is so much violence that such cases are considered too tame to be even reported.

The man who raped and killed seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur — a city south of Lahore in Punjab — has finally been nabbed through a DNA test. Imran Ali was a predator and had killed seven girls earlier. The 24-year-old boy was a religious person who sang praises of the Holy Prophet for a living, and had, in the past, been praised by the pious.

Read | Pakistan erupts in protest following rape, murder of 7-year-old

Zainab was was sexually assaulted for four days before her dead body was thrown in a rubbish dump near her home on January 9. Kasur erupted in violence after the police treated a report after her abduction as a routine matter. There was accumulated rage as well. According to an official count, “10 children, five of them girls, had been sexually assaulted and murdered in Kasur in a short span of time.” This was too much, even by Pakistani standards. The country convulsed with rage.

A district police officer told the media that Zainab was the eighth girl to fall victim to possibly one rapist-killer in Kasur. He said 5,000 suspects had been arrested and medical tests had been carried out on 67 of them. The first such incident had occurred in 2015. This gives one a measure of how incompetent the police and administration of Kasur have been regarding what were actually not routine crimes.

As the officials have made it known, it is not only Kasur where such an outrageous incident has taken place. Similar incidents have also taken place in Okara, Pattoki and Ganda Singhwala — cities neighbouring Kasur. Eight boys were murdered after a criminal assault in 2017. Punjab’s Inspector-General of Police Arif Nawaz told the media that “a single man appeared to be involved in all the cases of child rape and murder”.

Such incidents have been on the rise all over Pakistan. Middle and lower-middle class parents focus only on the religious instruction of their children. At home and in school, they are not trained to be on guard against such psychopaths. Pakistan is not the only country that has such a problem. However, in other parts of the world, the local administration is more sensitised to the issue and children are trained to be on guard against such predators.

In Sargodha, the body of a violated 15-year-old girl was dumped in the fields on January 11. In November last year, a 10-year-old vendor was killed after being sexually assaulted. The police refused to register the case. Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had taken notice of the incident and suspended the station house office and deputy superintendent of police from service.

In Pattoki, an 11-year-old boy was allegedly strangled after being sexually assaulted. In Faisalabad, a 16-year-old boy was found dead after going missing. In Sheikhupura, an eight-year-old girl was abducted, raped and strangled before being thrown in a dustbin.

In Kasur, the police registered first information reports, not against the offenders, but against the plaintiffs who were then taken into custody and punished for reporting the crimes. The local judge acquitted the gang and incarcerated the poor parents.

The victims of the Saleem Shirazi gang of rapists went to Lahore and protested in front of the Assembly after which Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif called them in and heard their grievances for four hours. He promised to help with lawyers and transport. But he ended up doing nothing.

Imran Ali will surely be given the death sentence but Pakistan’s increasingly abnormal collective mind wants a public hanging. Political parties are blaming each other for these gruesome incidents. Sensation-hungry journalists are busy making a case of international involvement. The seem to be alluding to child-porn gangs of Europe paying Imran Ali for sending them “good video material” from Kasur.

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’

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