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January 14, 2018

Justice for Zainab, safety for other ‘Zainabs’


January 14, 2018

There is no easy solution or answer to what happened to Zainab, but the incident, not the first of its kind, has shaken the nation. Can she and others would get justice through such a faulty criminal justice system. Even if she can, will we save others? Remember Zainab's words in her note book: “I am a girl.” It has lot of meaning coming from a seven-year-old.

Though we as a nation only react when something happens, Zainab's case raised two most important questions regarding prevention and punishment. What need to be done to get justice for Zainab and save other's Zainab. A rational, not emotional, debate and solution are needed to protect the future of Pakistan. It requires a constant effort on part of the successive governments and civil society, both from rural and urban areas. We are still far from proper criminal justice or politicising system, while our social and cultural structure has also collapsed.

I still remembered the five tips given by a female principal of a private school to the parents during a meeting at time of admission some years back. What was most amazing part was the fact that she narrated her own story of how her driver tried to molest her and said, "I don't want as what happened with me should happened to any other child. You as father and mother have responsibilities, one of which is to try to drop and pick your child instead of depending on others."

Her second advise was to ensure your child understand the meaning of a stranger. Except for parents, brother and sisters, and grandparents, all other relatives should be treated as strangers, she added.

She said, “Your child should be aware of people he or she should not get close or go out without your permission. I have noticed many parents leave their children at the disposal of their domestic servants and drivers. This will make them very vulnerable for others, which could be very dangerous."

She even warned that the parents should always discuss about their teachers and other unusual activities after they return home. “Parents should also observe if they notice something unusual in child's behaviour, she advised.

Villages have their own dynamics and in the last few years there have been rise in the kidnapping, sexual abuse and killing of children despite having strong values and joint family system. While the mohallah culture has vanished in the urban areas, it is still strong in the rural areas. It is not merely a question of education alone but also how you gnome your child and aware of things he or she must inform their parents, if anything happens.

Even if he is a serial killer or child sex maniac and also involved in some previous cases, how he could get away with police for whole one year. People's reaction in Kasur was natural but they also have to be more careful and alert so that such incidents could be prevented in future.

It was shocking that the elected MNAs and MPAs of Kasur, mostly belong to the ruling PML-N, not once raised the issue of sudden rise in such incidents in their constituencies and the constant failure of police and administration in doing something to stop the trend.

But it would also be wrong to politicise the issue to an extent of 'Justice for Zainab’ and use it for anti-government movement. At least, one was expecting a much-mature reaction from PPP and PTI as they are well aware of the fact that such crimes occur all over Pakistan.

It is not merely an issue of the government or the state, but as a society we are all have a role to play.

Secondly, if the political and religious parties, which are raising the issue of Justice for Zainab, had launched similar campaign in the past, at least some lives in Kasur would have been saved.

There are three tiers to save the children from the evils in the society. First, is the responsibility of the state, which is not only responsible for a strong criminal justice system but also to provide an atmosphere in which families feel safe to send their children to go out to play or to school without any fear.

Rule of law in a larger context has lots of meanings, including a strong and professional police above all political consideration, spee-dy trial and punishment.

But trial and conviction comes once the crime is committed. For the parents, much more important is the fact that their children are not subjected to such a heinous crime.

If the state or the government could not protect 13 Zainab and Boby in a small city like Kasur in a year, how the Punjab government could claim to have the best governance. Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah should be ashamed and feel guilty of their failure to save lives of so many boys and girls.

Our prisons are also not safe for the under-trial children, who often become vulnerable to criminals as they go in one prison van, face the same courts and at times dangerous criminals use them.

In late 90s, at least 60 children were recovered during a surprise raid from adult prison cells in the Hyderabad jail, who were allegedly subjected to sexual assault. The matter was later shelved, but some former jail officials confirmed that it’s very common in prisons.

What happened with little Zainab should not happen to another young Zainab. What happened to Boby should not happen to other girls and boys. Even if Zainab gets justice, this issue should not die down.

The Justice for Zainab movement should be converted into 'Justice for all Children’. No more Zainab, no more Boby. Politics is supposed to be a public service and there is nothing wrong if political and religious parties raised this issue, but they also have a responsibility to come out with some solution, both for punishment and prevention.

We as a nation are guilty of remaining silent and only reacting occasionally. Make it different this time and do something better for a better society and better Pakistan. If nothing else, can the Parliament come out with something concrete to save Pakistani children?

How we can save our sons and daughter required multiple approaches, from the criminal justice system to revival of our social and cultural values. As a Pakistani, I am guilty that I could not save Zainab. Can I save others?

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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