By Zara Maqbool
All over Pakistan but primarily Kasur has been a hub for a series of child abuse cases since 2006. Zainab is not the first girl who has been raped and murdered. She is the 12th case of sexual abuse in the past 12 months. Over 720 cases of such nature have been reported from Kasur in the last three years. There was also a series of child sexual abuses that occurred in Hussain Khanwala village from 2006 to 2014 where a prominent family had for years forced children to perform sex acts on video. The footage was sold or used to blackmail their impoverished families.
More than a decade of abuse and manipulation of the victims gets unnoticed until we find out. And then like a broken record a series of events take place every time. First there is hue and cry. The media gets involved and every channel presents their perspective on the breaking news. People start to protest expressing their grief, silently and violently. We fill our social media posts with hashtags and posts to express our grief and anger. The police and state get involved with sweeping statements, money given to the victim’s family and yes a much-publicized visit from the Chief Minister to their homes. Fact is that most of these victims are from the underprivileged society and some of these tactics usually work. At times the culprits get punished, at times they don’t but at the end of the day we all move on and that is the fate of these innocent souls who get tortured, killed and then dumped amongst garbage, a life worth nothing!
If we look at Kasur only, which is a small city, lets see who all can be held responsible here. We can blame the state for not being able to provide a strong police system, which leads to loopholes in the investigation and many culprits getting away all the time. We can blame the judicial system that does not provide swift justice and allows most culprits to get acquitted partly because of weak persecution. We can also blame the parents who living in these ‘Mohallas’ allow their children to roam around freely without any supervision. Even after so many cases of abuse, I wonder how many parents made their children sit down and warned them about strangers, abuse and what it all can lead to. We can blame our society at large too where talking about sexual abuse is not acceptable and mostly seen with disdain. We can continue to blame and we can continue to protest and then eventually we move on.
As a mother, Zainab’s face is imprinted on my mind but somehow I am not even allowing myself to fully experience the grief for seeing a young life so brutally tossed away. I feel helpless and hopeless. When the entire system is faulty where do you start and where do you end. In our country injustice is familiar to most of us in various capacities. The mighty and the powerful will get away and the weak and poor will suffer. Is it going to change? Not in my lifetime. Yes the media has become bold and brave but very rarely does highlighting these stories produce any result.
At the end, I can only beg non-government organizations to get involved and create awareness in places like Kasur so that parents think twice before allowing their children to go out alone. I am not discounting the lifestyle limitations of lower middle and poor classes where a mother has to get out of home to work or children have no one to look after them but then when the system fails extra ordinary measures have to be taken to protect our children. Our young birds with wings cut well before they could learn to fly.