It hasn’t even been a fortnight since seven-year-old Zainab Ansari was raped and killedbut Kasur is back to its ways: ten rupees will buy you all kinds of child pornography in the bazaars of Kasur. The bestiality involved in Zainab’s rape and murder now seems an afterthought; there are ample consumers of child pornography still around.
The demons in Kasur have been laid bare for the past three or four years for the worst of crimes: the sexual abuse of children. In 2015, a child pornography ring was busted, where more than 200 children of the Hussain Khanwala village were being filmed. Through the mechanisms of fear and threat to life, these children and their families were pressured to keep silent. As per statistics compiled by non-governmental organization, Sahil, 285 cases of child sexual abuse were recorded in this case.
The ring was busted and those involved were caught — young men in their 20s and 30s. The patron of this ring was alleged to an MPA from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Malik Saeed. He is accused of having, at the very least, protected the gang and financed their bail. Eventually the matter faded away in public imagination and the news but Kasur has been associated with child sexual abuse ever since.
But while the media’s glare shifted away, the number of girls having been raped and killed in Kasur piled up.
The brutal rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab has once again focused the media spotlight on the small Punjab town, which seems to be the hub of crimes against children. Is its reputation justified?
Some of it has been attributed to a serial killer and rapist, with Zainab being the twelfth murder victim in the span of just an year. “We kept losing our children and yet the police just sat clasping their hands, waiting for the next case to appear,” says Irshad, a resident of Kasur, who had also taken part in the protest that emerged in the wake of Zainab’s murder. Much of the citizens’ anger was directed at the administration.
However, the alleged serial killer’s involvement in the total number of children in Kasur whose rape was recorded is miniscule. According to Sahil, an NGO that works on the specific area of child sexual abuse, statistics for the first six months of 2017 reveal that in Kasur alone, a total of 129 cases of child assault were reported. Of these, 34 were abductions, 23 were rapes. In the last three years, a total of 720 incidents have been reported from Kasur.
Clearly the issue is much larger than one case. This begs the question: is Kasur really the hub of child sexual abuse in Pakistan?