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EFSAS Commentary

Horrendous tragedies in Kasur and Kathua: Failure of Law enforcement


In Pakistan, security is for leaders and we are just common insects”, with these words, the father of the 7-year old Zainab Ansari, whose body was recently found in a garbage heap, after being tortured, raped and killed, outrageously illustrated the perceived idleness and negligence on behalf of the law enforcement authorities responsible for the investigation. 

Days later, an eight-year-old girl belonging to a nomadic tribe in Kathua district in Indian Administered Jammu & Kashmir was raped, tortured and killed. The child’s body was found in Hiranagar area and according to locals, there were torture marks and human bites on her body. She was also allegedly given electric shocks and her legs were broken.

The numerous blocked roads, burnt down vehicles and the thousands of people marching the streets as a sign of protest, echoed the deep anguish and sorrow of the common people. The citizens of Kasur, Pakistan, were enraged about what they perceived to have been years of Government stonewalling in the face of rampant child abuse. The city is indeed stained with a long history of child sexual abuse cases – in 2015 Kasur came to the world's attention, via a child pornography scandal involving at least 280 children and in the last year alone, 11 girls, have been attacked under similar circumstances as Zainab within the same area. Traces of the same DNA have been found on six of the victims linking them together and suggesting that they may have been the victim of a serial killer. These statistics, which are similar in India and Afghanistan, highlight the worsening situation in the region and demonstrate the indispensability of introducing campaigns, which raise awareness on the incidents of sexual abuse.

Indeed, the collective condemnation of the people proved how such monstrous crimes could unite the population in their pursuit for justice and fairness, yet the question remains of what happens when an equally gruesome incident does not, for some reason or the other, accumulate the attention of the media or the public in Pakistan, India or Afghanistan. As Muhammad Ahmad Pansota, a lawyer at the High Court of Pakistan, claims: “Such crimes are tragic reminders of the failure of the State, and call for a complete overhaul of our intent towards child protection”. It has become vital for the State to develop societal channels for articulating accountability and reform, and most importantly generate legislations which competently implement them. A highly responsive Governance system is supposed  to execute its job under a sustainable regular action plan and strong legal framework, rather than relying on sporadic events in order to prove its pseudo-ability to articulate socio-legal incentives.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Even a well-drafted law is unlikely to achieve its objectives in the absence of a trained and accountable police force, adequately staffed probation departments and judges that are familiar with the applicable domestic law and international standards”. The appropriate training of criminal justice bodies is an essential prerequisite, which is further substantiated by the report of the National Commission for Human Rights, which found the police guilty “not only of criminal negligence but connivance” in regards to Zainab’s case.

The power of civil society should not be undermined. The public should recognize the importance of unity and advocacy for change not only in moments of devastating tragedies and heightened media frenzy, but whenever the asymmetries of the political system lets down their collective trust. There is a need for developing a space and an enabling environment that allows the public to engage more actively in Governmental affairs, challenge them, transform the nature of the current status quo and potentially trigger long-term social changes in their respective countries.

The horrendous death of both children has left dozens of questions for criminal justice bodies, human rights organizations and society at large to answer. The children’s killing was heinous; the murderers need to be captured and prosecuted, and the law enforcement mechanisms have to undergo reform. Kasur’s and Kahtua’s tragedies reflect the absolute failure of the police and exposed the cracks in the legislation framework, which in return resulted in the public losing faith in law enforcement. When disasters strike, the time to prepare has passed; therefore, prevention of tragedies inhibits the necessity of dealing with their consequences.

The horrendous killings, which shook both nations to its core and were condemned by each and every member of the society, unravel the bigger picture, where such cases unfortunately are not an isolated occurrence. The gruesome murders prove the pressing necessity for improvements in legislation concerning proper mechanisms and strategies on the implementation of public protection, expeditious investigatory powers and female rights advocacy. Such amendments are imperative to ensure that heinous incidents as these will not happen again.