Kasur as a political failure

Umair Javed

THE rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab in Kasur, and ensuing events and conversations in its aftermath, provide yet another exemplary display of what all is broken in Pakistan’s political system. Firstly, as the 12th such case reported over a couple of years in a two-kilometre radius, it tells us (again) just how badly compromised Punjab Police is as an institution. This was visible first through its indifferent attitude towards the investigation and then through a display of ingrained incompetence and brutality as it fired upon protesters.

Secondly, the fact that these events took place in Kasur, a city no more than half an hour away from the over-governed provincial capital, lays bare the hollow claims of political performance in the province. This wasn’t some peripheral region whose political economy and historical conditions make it difficult to run rules-based institutions; this is as heartland Punjab as it possibly gets. If this is the standard of governance that Shahbaz Sharif proclaims to champion, one shudders to imagine a not-too-distant (and wholly likely future) where the entire country is run the same way.

Third, the collective hopes and aspirations of justice for an entire population have once more been outsourced to (ephemeral) media attention and ‘notice-taking’ efforts by state elites of various shapes and sizes, from the chief minister, Punjab, to the army chief to the Lahore High Court and Supreme Court chief justices to the chairman, Senate. This begs the question of what happens when an equally gruesome incident does not, for some reason or the other, garner as much attention as this one.

Our political system is responsive in particular moments of heightened media frenzy and public attention, but callously indifferent in most other instances.

At the heart of these three failures lies a long-festering vacuum in Pakistan’s political sphere: the absence of societal channels for articulating accountability and reform. In functioning countries, this articulation is carried out by robust and cause-specific civil society organisations, which can take up issues that require particular social and policy changes. For instance, child abuse cases would see an outpouring of societal resources, a well-thought-out cultural and legal response, and sustained pressure to ensure requisite organisational changes take place. In such countries, an incident like the Kasur child pornography scandal would’ve been the absolute final straw, and not been allowed to wilt at the altar of a ruling party’s expedient politics. It goes without saying that Pakistan is not one such country.

Over the past decade and a half, Pakistan has seen the rise of party competition and a concurrent explosion of private media, which many perceive as necessary conditions for making the state more responsive. In some rudimentary ways, this is correct. Parties compete to be seen as better suited for the task of governing, while media attention is supposed to keep citizens informed and decision-makers honest.

Unfortunately, it seems many have also deemed this to be a sufficient condition for responsive government. Some have vested their aspirations in parties, proposing that one party may do better where others are clearly failing. Those who’re disillusioned by the weakness and expediency of political parties, pin their hopes on other forms of state intervention, such as suo motu by the court, or the various forms of notice-taking that the military frequently carries out.

In a country with a long history of authoritarianism, centralised deployment of executive power, and a deeply ingrained (and purposefully cultivated) fetish of strongmen, these are exactly the kind of responses one would expect. And as is clearly visible, these responses do not appear to be taking us very far.

By now, the limitations of our political system are clear. It is responsive in particular moments of heightened media frenzy and public attention, but callously indifferent in most other instances. It is somewhat competent in coming up with social justice-oriented legislation, but completely incompetent in implementing it. It can deliver infrastructure and other brick-and-mortar projects, but has no will or incentives for reforming systems of governance.

These assertions are not just built on one or two tragic cases in Kasur, but are clearly visible over the past two decades, and stand regardless of whether the country was being run as a military dictatorship or as a procedural democracy. Therefore, for anyone interested in a more responsive system of government, the question of forcing the state to do its job on a regular basis, rather than praying for a change of incentives or a sporadic outburst of attention, becomes key.

And the answer, to put it simply, is that making the state more responsive and competent requires socially mobilising in a sustained manner, well beyond what the public is accustomed to at this point. It means building autonomous institutions and organisations that can lobby, advocate, and force the government to act. It means building networks across the social spectrum in order to garner as much public support as possible and to popularise the right kind of solutions to particular problems. It means dropping a tiresome reliance on various state institutions, given the fact that they too are wholly incapable of solving every problem or pushing through the kind of reform required at this point. And it means seeing private news media as one instrument of political pressure, rather than as the sole articulator and protector of the public will.

None of this is easy in a country where the extant civil society landscape consists of NGOs largely dependent on international donor funding, or professional associations interested only in protecting and perpetuating sectional privileges. In instances like the Kasur tragedy, it also means intervening — as Shehzad Roy has bravely done — in an obtuse cultural field where the religious right carries both discursive and coercive authority. Yet this remains the only long-term solution to the myriad of state failures this population is forced to experience on a regular basis.

Source: Dawn, January 15th, 2018

Police find new CCTV footage of man who allegedly kidnapped Zainab

Protests in Pakistan after girl's rape and murder

Kasur erupts with protests 7 years old zainab rape and murder- 10 January 2018- 92NewsHDPlus

92 News Headlines 03:00 PM - 11 January 2018 - 92NewsHDPlus

The details of Zainab's brutal murder in Kasur

6-year-old Zainab's autopsy suggests child endured rape,
captivity before murder

Atika Rehman
A postmortem examination conducted on 6-year-old Zainab, whose body was recovered from a trash heap in Kasur days after she went missing, suggests she may have been raped before she was strangled to death.

District Headquarters Hospital (DHQ) Medico Legal Officer (MLO) Dr Quratulain Attique told Dawn.com on Thursday that the examination revealed the minor girl had died of strangulation.

There were visible marks of torture on the child's face, congestion in her muscles, and her tongue was badly bruised and injured as it was pressed between her teeth. She added that the hyoid bone was fractured, indicating strangulation.

Dr Attique said the postmortem examination was performed the same day Zainab's body was recovered ─ on Tuesday ─ and an initial examination suggested she may have been dead for two to three days.

Zainab went missing on Jan 4, which means she may have been held captive by her abductors for two to four days before she was killed.

Although the MLO did not explicitly confirm that the minor was raped, findings in the autopsy suggest that she may have been sexually assaulted.

The minor's hymen was ruptured, and there was also evidence to suggest the child had been sodomised. There was mud, fecal matter and blood found on her body, the MLO confirmed, and samples of semen, vaginal fluid and blood were collected from her body.

The samples have been sent to a lab in Lahore for testing, Dr Attique said, adding that the process of testing can take up to three months.

Dr Attique said that this is the fourth such case she has seen in the seven months she has been at DHQ Kasur. Of the four cases, only one child survived the ordeal. The findings in all cases were similar to those in Zainab's case.

Zainab, 6, had gone to a religious tuition centre near her house in the Road Kot area last Thursday (Jan 4) from where she is believed to have been abducted. Her parents had been in Saudi Arabia performing Umrah, according to her family, and she had been living with a maternal aunt. Her parents returned to the country on Wednesday.

Soon after her abduction, her panicked family had received footage showing her walking with a stranger near Peerowala Road.

On Tuesday, a police constable deputed to trace the girl recovered her body from a heap of trash near the Shahbaz Khan Road.

Police said the girl seemed to have been killed four or five days earlier.

A first information report had been registered against the disappearance of the girl on Jan 5, with the victim's paternal uncle as the complainant in the case. Murder charges were added to the FIR on Jan 9, after the victim's body was recovered.

The child’s body was buried on Wednesday evening after the chief of the army staff assured her family that the criminal would not go scot-free.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif offers his condolences to Zainab's family in Kasur on Thursday.

Sharif also visited the victim's family on Thursday morning to offer his condolences. He assured his support to Zainab's father and promised that the culprits would be severely punished. The Punjab CM chaired a cabinet meeting on law and order, reviewed the primary reports on the Kasur incident and ordered the installation of CCTV cameras in the city.

Zainab's father, Amin, is a supporter of Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri, who led the funeral prayers for this daughter. But Amin vowed not to bury his daughter until justice is served.

Protests and a shutter-down strike which began in Kasur on Tuesday turned violent on Wednesday and continued Thursday as residents agitated against perceived police inaction over the alleged rape and murder of the child.

The protesters resolved not to relent unless the culprit was brought to justice. It was not long before the outrage spread across other cities and to social media, with the # JusticeforZainab hashtag becoming a rallying cry.

At least two people died of gunshot wounds on Wednesday when a group of 200 protesters armed with sticks and stones ─ led by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah ─ attempted to storm the deputy commissioner's office and clashed with police.

The Punjab government on Wednesday evening confirmed that six people, including four policemen and two civil defence personnel, who allegedly opened fire at the protesters were arrested.

Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif announced financial aid of Rs3m to the families of those killed by firing, and said that jobs would be given to two members of each family.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, while speaking about a policeman who had fired into a crowd of protesters outside the DC's office yesterday, told DawnNews today: "We have taken the man that was straight shooting at the crowd into custody. Even in the video, it is evident that his superior is telling the man not to shoot at that angle and yet he continues to do so."

As demonstrations ran into their third day, members of civil society staged protests and held vigils for the victim, with all condemning the tragedy in the strongest possible terms.

Protesters in Kasur agitated at the compound of PML-N MPA Naeem Safdar Ansari, where an enraged mob set cars and motorcycles parked in his compound on fire. Ansari was not at his compound at the time of the riots.

Students at Punjab University (PU) and other institutions staged protests against the 6-year-old's murder at Kalma Chowk in Lahore. The protesters blocked Ferozepur Road and demanded that the government took appropriate action and ensured that justice is served.

The PU students also held funeral prayers in absentia for the victim.

Speaking to reporters at Parliament House, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah demanded that provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah and CM Shahbaz Sharif turn in their resignations for failing to provide protection to citizens.

The opposition has been clamouring for the Sana and Sharif's resignations for the Model Town incident. Shah today drew a comparison between the Model Town clashes and the riots in Kasur after some police officials opened fire on protesters stormed the DC's office.

"The Kasur incident is the height of savagery and the Punjab government is responsible for it," he claimed. "This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in Kasur, but the government has failed to put a stop to these crimes."

PPP's Sherry Rehman submit call-to-attention notice in Senate today asking senators to pay attention to sexual assault, which appears to be prevalent in Kasur. The PPP also submitted a motion in the Parliament, asking for a debate on Zainab's murder in order to ensure the protection of children in the country in future.

PPP, MQM-P, PML-F and PTI leaders also submitted a resolution in the Sindh Assembly condemning Zainab's murder.

The National Commission for Human Rights blamed the Kasur district administration for the murder and said that had the NCHR recommendations been implemented, the latest incident would not have occurred.

"There were very solid and sound recommendations that had been forwarded, but it is very painful to see that no concrete steps have been taken by the district administration of Kasur to curb the recurrence of such grave incidents," NCHR Chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan said.

Source: Dawn, January 11, 2018

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