The brutal rape and killing of Zainab Ansari, a seven-year-old girl whose body was left in a garbage dump, has unleashed a wave of revulsion around Pakistan, revealing a string of child abductions and killings by a suspected serial predator and generating outrage at a culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse.
Zainab’s death has even given birth to a nascent Pakistani version of #MeToo movement.A number of prominent Pakistani women have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault, saying they want to change traditions that consider abuse as a mark of shame for the victim. Those traditions, they say, help predators get away with abuse and encourage an already corrupt police force to ignore such crimes.
The Senate’s Standing Committee on the Interior, which oversees policing, launched an inquiry this week into the sexual assaults in Kasur, as well as into another recent attack in another part of the country — the rape and killing of a four-year-old named Asma, whose body was left in a field near her home in Kyhber Pukhtunkhwa, in northwestern Pakistan.
Zainab was snatched in early January as she walked to a Qur’an class. Her parents were away on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, and the girl and her two sisters and brother were watched over by her aunts and uncles who all live in the same house in an impoverished neighbourhood of narrow lanes on the outskirts of the city.
It was only after the shock over Zainab that news emerged of other children abducted and raped in Kasur. Amid the uproar, police did testing on the victims and found the same DNA on eight of the children, all but one of whom was killed. Police now say they are hunting for a serial rapist-killer.
Today authorities announced the arrest of a suspect in Zainab’s killing. The spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, Malik Ahmed Khan, identified the suspect as Mohammed Imran and said he was arrested near Kasur.
Among the eight victims was five-year-old Ayesha. Her father, Mohammed Asif, said he pleaded with the police to find her after her abduction last year.Ahsan said his daughter’s attack was ignored in the media until Zainab’s killing.