Murder of Zainab, 6, stirs outrage in Pakistan

Aamir Shah
Sat, 2018-01-13 03:00

ISLAMABAD: The city of Kasur in Pakistan’s Punjab province has exploded into violence following the sexual assault and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose body was found in a rubbish dump on Tuesday. She is reportedly the 12th child to have been murdered in the last year in, or close to, Kasur — a city with a long history of pedophile scandals.
Protesters infuriated by perceived government inaction over this latest crime attacked a hospital, a police station, and government offices, bringing public transport to a halt and forcing the closure of the courts. On Thursday, residents attacked the homes of politicians.
While the restive city calmed somewhat on Friday, the nation remains enraged over the police’s failure to arrest the perpetrator of the crime.
“We want justice, and we hope that the killer of our daughter will not go scot-free,” Zainab’s father, Muhammad Amin, told Arab News.
“We hope the killer will not only be arrested but also given exemplary punishment.”
Zainab is believed to have been abducted outside a religious tuition center she attended just 100 meters from her home on Thursday, Jan. 4. Her parents were in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah at that time, and she was in the care of her maternal aunt.
A number of social, political and religious figures have visited the bereaved parents in recent days. And Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa assured Zainab’s family that the criminal would be caught and punished.
Kasur resident Mohammed Junaid said police had not taken the spate of child murders seriously and that no arrests have been made during their investigations.
“The people of Kasur are left with no option but to protest against the inaction of the government and the police,” he told Arab News, adding that they would “set all government buildings in the city on fire” if the culprit was not arrested soon.
The police aggravated the situation further on Wednesday when they shot and killed two protesters. Later, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif apologized to the families of the victims and promised compensation.
“The whole nation should come out to express solidarity with Zainab’s parents and demand the rulers to take cogent measures to put an end to such incidents,” Shakil Iftikhar, a businessman in Kasur, told Arab News.
There are signs, though, that the government may finally have been jolted into action.
Talking to Arab News, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb emphasized that all political parties should join together to create awareness about child abuse and help the government enact effective legislation.
“We will try our best to include the issue of child abuse in the curriculum by taking all parties on board,” she said, while urging the nation to stay calm as the government was doing its best to live up to people’s expectations.
It is not just Kasur that has witnessed an alarming increase in the sexual assault of minors. According to Sahil, a non-governmental organization for victims of violence and sexual abuse, there were 4,139 cases of child sexual abuse — including abduction, missing children and child marriage — in Pakistan in 2016, an average of 11 incidents per day and a 10 percent increase on 2015.
Sahil’s annual report, “Cruel Numbers,” revealed in 2016: “Following the previous year’s data, more girls have been sexually abused this year as well. The reported cases under major crime categories are: abduction 1,455, rape 502, sodomy 453, gang rape 271, gang sodomy 268 and 362 cases of attempted (child sexual abuse). An even more serious crime is committed when the victim is murdered. A total of 100 victims were murdered after sexual assaults.”
As tensions continued to run high on Friday, the Punjab government appointed Regional Police Officer Multan Idrees Ahmad as head of the joint investigation team for Zainab’s murder.
Punjab Government spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan told Arab News that the police have unearthed a connection between Zainab’s killing and recent incidents of a similar nature in Kasur.
Khan said that experts from the forensic science laboratory had been working on the magnification of an image of the suspect.
“We are establishing a criminal database for the first time in the country’s history to identify suspects through facial recognition,” he said.
He claimed police were “close to the suspect now.”

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