The horrific tragedy of Zainab Ansari, an eight-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Kasur, Pakistan, has the attention of the whole world. It’s heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to read the news and see her parents sorrow.
Recently, 10 other girls have been sexually assaulted in a similar way in Kasur, while law enforcement have been impotent. These are only the reported cases because many go unreported for fear.
True, there are riots and protests all over Pakistan about Zainab’s brutal attack. Two have died and others wounded, but there are some key questions that have yet to be answered.
Why is it that law enforcement have not taken any action until now when there have been previous cases of sexual assault? The reason these cases were hushed up is because rich and powerful feudal landlords may have been involved, so the assaults were pushed under the table. In some cases, money was given to the family, or they were threatened to stay silent.
No one has been caught and convicted, because if that happens, it will start a chain reaction in which the so-called “gentry” will be stripped naked and dishonored. The lives and honor of the young victims are no match for the powerful and political.
Zainab’s murder is symptomatic of a much larger problem that is not being addressed. Children in Pakistan are vulnerable to religious schools and extremist organizations. Madrassas are mushrooming all over the country with little or no accountability about who is running them and what is being taught. There are no statistics about child molestation, rape, sodomy and battering – all of which are rampant.
There is no secular education, let alone sex education, which the religious clergy are deadly against. All mullahs have issued fatwas that sex education is “vulgar.” In a patriarchal and misogynist society, young men are not taught how to respect women, so they grow up with warped ideas.
Yes, these kinds of incidents happen everywhere in the world. However in other countries, preventative measures are taken, such as making young kids aware of “stranger-danger,” making them aware of their bodies, sex education, confiding in parents, encouragement to speak out and counselling. In Pakistan, even speaking about such issues or asking questions is considered taboo, and if a child accuses a family member of impropriety, it’s considered dishonorable and the child is silenced.
What is worse is that the politicization of Zainab’s tragedy has already started. A deeply shocked and grieving father is being made a pawn in a game of politics. The head of the JIT (Joint Investigation Taskforce) was an Ahmadi Muslim, so the father of the victim was coached to say the he doesn’t want him heading the investigation, and hence he was replaced.
The father is asking the chief justice and head of the army to offer solutions, which they have gleefully agreed to do. Other low-level politicians are trying to score points, and the religious right are hammering away at the government.
This is the shocking environment in which Zainab’s suffering and sacrifice are being played out. Why is this game of political chess happening?
Let me explain.
The army, which has wielded power either directly or behind the scenes since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, wants the government to fail in order to put in an interim government of their choice. They are using Zainab’s case to show that the government has actually failed in maintaining law and order.
The government welcomes the chaos so they can accuse the army of playing politics and thus control the chaos to their advantage.
And why are the government and the army at odds?
The army (along with Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer turned popular politician) do not want any rapprochement with India (they are siding with China in this matter). They are using the judiciary to punish the politicians. The rest of the politicians are pro-USA and would like to trade with India, however they are highly corrupt. No wonder Pakistan has been accused of playing a double game internationally (and now locally) with its own people.
And in this confused arena, lies the savaged and dead body of little Zainab Ansari.