On Jan 18, 2020, the body of a seven year old girl was found in Mohallah Pir Sach of Kaka Sahib village, district Nowshera. The girl was reported missing a day before when she left for Quran lessons at a madrassah but did not return. The family searched for her whereabouts for 4 hours before registering a missing report with the local police.
The deceased girl was eventually discovered in a water tank in a newly constructed building near her home. The police arrested two suspects, Ibrar and Rafique-ul-Wahab, the night the body had been recovered, and obtained a 2-day physical remand.
The main accused, Ibrar, confessed to strangling the girl to death in a Nowshera district court. He said he carried out the crime as revenge against her uncle, who had allegedly thrashed him prior to the incident, but clarified that he did not sexual assault her. The co-accused, however, denied any involvement.
Samples have been sent to the Punjab Forensic Laboratory. Police are currently awaiting results, which would help ascertain whether or not the girl was sexually assaulted prior to her murder.
The Government’s Response
On Jan 22, 2020, Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mahmood Khan during a meeting on the Child Protection Bill, constituted a provincial prosecution team to work in tandem with the police to hasten progress in the Nowshera minor’s case and dispense immediate justice.
Mahmood Khan, who had chaired the meeting, also called for the immediate functionalization of a Child Protection Committee. The Committee will be responsible for recommendations on amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Provincial Laws, provision of severe punishments for child abusers, and putting child molesters on a sex offenders list. The Committee will submit its recommendations and draft a bill within a month.
Policy that Misses the Mark
In light of the passage of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 on Jan 10, 2020, in the National Assembly, the response of the authorities to form even more stringent punishments does not address the root cause of the Nowshera minor’s abduction and murder. Stronger and more severe punishments do not ensure that crimes against children will immediately halt.
A severe lack of law enforcement, a culture of shame surrounding sexual crimes, and resistance to education and awareness campaigns for children to help them stay clear of possible molesters, mean abusers understand they will not be discovered, and can continue to commit sexual crimes unabated.
It is important that the government devise more comprehensive protection laws, and ensure that they are implemented. Further, the glaring faults of law enforcement must be corrected – crime can only be deterred if potential criminals are certain that they will be discovered and apprehended.
Report by Asra Haque