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#JusticeForZainab: Is Protest the Answer?

January 11 , 2018

By: Muhammad Raza Haidery

There are no words to describe the horrific rape and killing of seven-year old Zainab Ansari in Kasur, the burial place of renowned Sufi poet Hazrat Baba Bulleh Shah. But the city has earned a notorious reputation for one of the most horrendous crimes on earth – child  abuse.

In 2015, a major child scandal hit Kasur. A criminal ring of 20 to 25 men molested children, recorded their despicable crime and sold the videos to pornographic website . The sex predators also blackmailed families of the minor victims to extort money.

Instead of bring the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah went on record to claim that the whole scandal was motivated by a land dispute.

Three years later on Jan 10, the photo of lifeless Zainab lying in a garbage dump in Kasur shocked the nation. Celebrities, cricket stars, politicians, rights campaigners and citizens took to social media sites to voice their anger at the killing of little Zainab.

In Kasur, devastated family and friends and residents tried to storm the office of city police chief over police failure to apprehend the culprit. Two demonstrators died instantly when police opened straight fire in a bid to break up the protest.

There were also protests in Karachi, Faisalabad, Multan and other cities from civil society and students.

But the question one must ask is what has really changed between 2015 and 2018 to tackle the widespread problem of child abuse. The answer is nothing. Because as a nation we have developed a false notion that protests solve everything. No they don’t.

We need to identify the problem first and then find a solution.

The 32nd President of the United States of America Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear..is fear itself”. We have to realize that there are issues regarding sexual violence against children and there are ways to resolve it.

African American human rights worker Malcolm X said, “And during the few moments that we have left, … We want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand.” We have to take everyone on board including the children, parents, members of the civil society and the old-aged people in the affected community. Negotiations and dialogue can help spread awareness.

Protests have its pros and cons. It may make or break the momentum of a cause. It provides an immediate platform to vent our anger. But what we need to see is how many rapists were convicted by courts? What was done by the state to educate parents and children about the potential risks? Was any serious made to encourage community service?

Were there any reforms in legal system which could protect children from sex predators? Was any system or database developed to identify serial offenders and sex predators? We can’t protect our children unless we learn to protect our communities.

The government should not turn a blind eye to the issues and make laws which make rape an unpardonable crime. Amendments to the constitution and penal code should be introduced which makes it impossible for the serial offenders to be pardoned.

Low conviction rates of criminals (due to pressure on the parents by influential figures) are one of the main reasons why rapist often go scot-free.

A parent-child relation is a gift from God and it is of utmost importance that they speak to each other about such situation.

As far as the crackdown on protesters is concerned, a proper standard of procedure (SOP) needs to be made in order to deal with the situation.

Authorities, parents, children and civil society need to join hands to fight the menace.


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