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May 23, 2019

Justice for Farishta


May 23, 2019

There is something eerily similar in the death of ten-year-old Farishta, who was possibly raped and killed in Islamabad, to the death just over a year ago of seven-year-old Zainab in Kasur. The body of the ten year old, who had gone out to play, was found in greenery near her home in the Shahzad Town area on the outskirts of the federal capital. It had apparently been dumped in a garbage heap, just like that of Zainab’s had been. The family, which is said to be from the erstwhile tribal areas, has been staging a protest to demand the arrest of the killers, and action against police who apparently made no move to recover the child after it had been reported that she was missing. Forensic testing in Lahore will determine if the ten-year-old girl was raped. Time will tell if we are as a society able to adopt measures that can prevent other children suffering the same moments of terror and the same end to a life cut short before it could begin.

It seems apparent that the death penalty, as happened in the case of Zainab’s murderer, does not alone solve the problem. Severity of punishment has been demonstrated not to act as a deterrent either. Consistency in tracking down perpetrators and creating checkpoints in society which help protect children are almost invariably more effective in keeping them safe. We must ask also where their morality and religiosity we hear of so often over social media and in matters related to women goes when such crimes against little children take place. Essentially, we have created a social reality in which there is no safe space for vulnerable persons, including children. The child abuse monitoring organisation Sahil reported 3,832 cases of child abuse and molestation in 2018. It is quite possible more occurred but were not reported.

A terrible crime has been committed. The family – from Mohmand Agency – was isolated and in desperate straits in the first place. They had less protection than other groups. It is the children of the poor and deprived who most often fall victim to crime committed by outsiders. In homes too, crimes against children take place, even if they are less likely to be reported. In the latest case, two persons have been arrested. It is likely other arrests will be made. But we cannot say with any certainty that this will prevent other similar offences from taking place and other children falling victim to them.

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