Screen Shot Zainab 3f4f5

 

This post contains graphic descriptions of the rape and murder of a young girl.

Pakistanis took to the streets on last Thursday for a second day of protests spurred by the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, Zainab Amin, reported CNN. Her body, found dumped on a garbage pile in the Kasur district, an area in the Punjab province, on January 9th. Her murder is one of a dozen similar killings in the last year of children between the ages of five and eight whose bodies were found in parks, drains, and other public places. The police found matching DNA evidence in over five of the cases, but have yet to apprehend the culprit. Faced with the possibility of a serial killer, and paired with an inadequate police force that refused to investigate the crimes further, residents’ concern turned to anger, sparking demonstrations across the country over the government’s apathy.

Two civilians were killed last Wednesday in the Punjab province as police fired bullets into a crowd that had gathered, allegedly throwing rocks and firing shots of their own at the precinct, reported Reuters. Chants calling for the resignation of Shehbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab, could be heard in the streets, and as protestors ransacked the office of a local lawmaker, Naeem Safdar. People had also taken to social media, venting their outrage with the hashtag #JusticeForZainab. A local Pakistani news anchor, Kiran Naz, appeared on SAMAA TV  with her young daughter to protest violence against children, while the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai tweeted out a global call to action.

pakistan anchor 520d5Photo via Twitter@omar_quraishi

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Photo via Twitter/@Malala

The collective anger is more than justified, as district authorities in Kusar have turned a blind eye to child abuse for many years: Before they were arrested in 2015, a gang of 25 men, headed by members of an affluent local family, ran a child sex ring. Over the course of six years, the pedophiles coerced over 280 children into making pornographic tapes, which they sold for profit or used to blackmail the children’s families. The police were privy to the abuse, but deferred to the gang because of the family’s influential standing.  Police were found guilty “not only of criminal negligence but connivance,” in an investigation led by The National Commission for Human Rights.  “In Pakistan, security is for leaders and we are just common insects,” Muhammad Amin Ansari, Zainab's father, said in a conversation with the Guardian. In the wake of the scandal, the Pakistani parliament outlawed the creation of child pornography. Commenting on the law, Ansar Sajjad, the regional coordinator for the anti-child abuse charity Sahil, said in the same article that the government makes “more promises [about child protection] that were not fulfilled. That is why we are seeing so much problems.”

In an interview with CNN, Ansari said that the murders of the past year, compounded with the earlier scandal, have put parents on high alert: "for the last two years, we are living in fear, parents are scared to send their kids outside." His fear is not misplaced. Surveillance videos show a man leading Zainab away from her home in Kasur on January 4th, while her parents were away on an Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. Her uncle reported Zainab missing the following day, and her body was found atop a trash heap. She had been sodomized and raped, and then strangled, with her tongue crushed between her teeth, and torture marks visible on her face. The police’s indifference to his daughter’s horrific murder was the final straw. He says he will not bury his daughter until the police arrest the culprit.

According to CNN, the protests have spurred Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to follow up on Zainab's case, tasking the police to find the killer within the next 24 hours, promising to install surveillance cameras across the city, and offering 10 million rupees (~$90,000) to anyone who helps. He also asked police to investigate the murders of the other 11 girls.

So far, they have 10 suspects.

This story is still unfolding, stay tuned for updates.

 

Top Photo: CNN screenshot

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Sarah C. Epstein is a writer and creator living in NYC. In her free time she enjoys eating berries, reflecting on her dreams, and hanging out with her pet snake, Sydney. Find her online at cricketepstein.com

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