Fact Finding Report

Zainab Murder Case History & SPARC's Fact Finding Report


Background


Zainab Amin Ansari was a 7 year old girl who was abducted on 4th, January, 2018, while walking to her aunt’s house; which was within 100 meters from her own house. The body of 7 year old Zainab was found in a trash heap 5 days after her family had reported her missing. Police believe she was raped and strangled to death, the latest victim in a spate of kidnappings and murders of young girls in the city.

Her parents had gone to perform Umrah (Pilgrimage) and she was under the care of relatives. After realizing that she is missing, her relatives and neighbors looked for her in the area and when all their efforts failed to find her, they went to the police to lodge a complaint. Five days later, her battered corpse was discovered in a garbage dump nearby.  The medical examiner’s terse report hinted at the horrors she had endured while the community was frantically searching for her.

The case prompted outrage and riots across Kasur, with residents blaming police for not doing enough to prevent a rash of abductions, sexual assaults and murders.

Police in Kasur had recorded 12 similar murders over the past two years, and believe at least five of the cases can be linked to the same person. DNA samples were obtained from dozens of potential suspects, after which a man named Imran was arrested. Authorities claimed that his DNA is a match in the Zainab case, as well as in various other cases. Zainab was the 12th victim to be raped and killed in Kasur in two years. The other victims thought to have been killed by the same perpetrator include; Eman (4); Fauzia (11); Noor (7); Ayesha (5); Laiba (9); Sana (7); and Kainat (8).

There were strangulation marks on her neck, mud, fecal matter, and blood on the body. Morover, there was semen and other signs of sexual assault including sodomy. Zainab’s gruesome rape and slaying earned this economically struggling city (Kasur) a macabre reputation as Pakistan’s capital of child sex abuse. But it also triggered an unprecedented national bout of soul-searching, outrage and public confessions from victims of sexual abuse. As Pakistan is a conservative society, child sexual abuse is rarely reported and sex education is too controversial for public schools. But Zainab’s case thrust a long verboten topic into the public arena.

People came out on the roads to protest eagerly whereas media played its role by providing intense coverage, raising awareness and demanding justice for Zainab. This public outrage and widespread anguish for the unsolved case of Zainab brought pressure to the law enforcers and the situation got untoward when two protestors got shot by the police.

During the investigation, the Punjab Police aired three CCTV clips on the media and secured 423 DNA samples of the suspects. The Supreme Court also expressed dissatisfaction with the progress of investigation into Zainab’s case and set a deadline to track down the culprit. A committee was formed to address the legal remedies, preventive measures and effective investigation.

On January, 23rd, 2018 Punjab Police finally arrested the culprit with ‘proper evidence’. They found an empty box near the body while investigation and forensic examination has helped to identify the key suspect. His DNA matched with the sample that proved his guilt, plus the jacket found out at suspect’s house during police raid was similar to the one seen in CCTV footage i-e a zip-up jacket having two large buttons on either side. He has also confessed to his crime.

According to the information available, he was a 24-yearsold man Imran, residing in the same neighborhood as Zainab’s. During the last year, 11 similar cases were reported before Zainab's episode and out of those; eight of the victims carry his DNA.

People are asking for an exemplary punishment for the perpetrator. Whereas the Political leaders have been asked to bring a National level policy regarding this issue.

Findings by SPARC’s Fact Finding Team

A delegation of SPARC consisting of Khurram Shahzad & Muhammad Safdar visited Kasur on 22nd, January, 2018 to offer condolences to Zainab’s family & take feedback about the investigation (which was underway at the time). The delegation was welcomed by Ch Asim Asgher Advocate & Mst. Irshad Safdar. The Delegation met Zainab's uncles, & family members of the victim’s father.

Zainab's family members pointed out drawbacks of the investigative procedure and appeared dissatisfied with the investigation.

Views of Family Members of Multiple Victims

SPARC’s team also met the father of Ayesha, who was another victim of rape and murder. The victim’s father alleged that in his daughter’s case, the police had attempted to wrongfully accuse an individual.

The SPARC team met Haji Maqsood Sabir Ansari, ex vice District Nazim, who is a relative of Zainab, as well as the family members of Ayesha & Eman. The family members of the victims briefed the delegation that they were not satisfied with pattern of Police Investigation. They claimed that the DNA test was being conducted merely as a formality. Relatives of one of the victim’s father explained that the police had lodged an FIR against the victim’s brothers just to blackmail them.

Police Pressurizing Families of Other Victims

The SPARC team also met the family of a minor boy (Abbas) who was a victim of child sexual abuse. The victim’s family claim that the police and influentials in the area are pressurizing the family to change their narrative and opt for a settlement with the perpetrators.

Weaknesses in the Child Protection Mechanism in Kasur

Then SPARC delegation also visited office of Child Protection Unit where the SPARC team observed inconsistencies in the narrative of the officials. The officials at the unit seemed to be covering up the failures of the administration.

Like most child protection units and government bodies, there seemed to be a lot of gaps in the system that exists in Kasur. The Child Protection Department in Kasur was established on 25th, November, 2017. The unit has an MOU with Dar-ul-Amman Kasur to provide shelter to female child victims, whereas the boys are referred to the child protection unit in Lahore.

Considering this history of Kasur District as a hub of child sexual abuse, the aforementioned shows the lack of interest of concerned authorities in providing meaningful care to victims of child sexual abuse. Not only the child protection mechanism is weak but the police has been accused of protecting perpetrators in the 2015 Kasur child sexual abuse case. Not to mention the killing of two protestors by the police is evidence enough of the draconian mindset of the local police.

The SPARC delegation had noticed, that there was a need for emphasis on developing awareness among citizens, in school going children, teachers & parents in the area.

Recommendations

  • An impartial investigation into various cases of child sexual abuse should be conducted in district Kasur. There should be special emphasis on not only identifying perpetrators but their facilitators which are allegedly police officials and politicians.
  • A proper child protection mechanism needs to be setup in Kasur district, where there is provision for shelter and psycho-social support for child victims, including separate shelters for female and male victims.
  • Psycho-social support, legal aid and financial support for family members of child victims should be ensured by the Government of Punjab.
  • A nationwide policy on child sexual abuse should be immediately formulated with the cooperation of all provinces and the Federal government. SPARC is currently a member of a working group setup by NCCWD & NCSW for this purpose. However, the need for greater involvement of lawmakers is imperative for governmental bodies to be able to translate recommendations into concrete measures. This is because many recommendations and action plans are often marred by the apathy of lawmakers and funding constraints.
  • A committee consisting of members from the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies, Senate, Child Protection Bodies & Civil Society Organizations should be setup to discuss the strategy to curb the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the country.
  • Widespread police reforms to ensure more transparency is needed. The process for lodging an FIR should be made easier at hospitals where victims should be given adequate medial support by experienced professionals. Child sexual abuse units should be setup at all public hospitals for this very purpose.
  • A nationwide database consisting of data for child sexual abuse should be setup.
  • Child protection units with provision for shelter should be setup across the country with separate shelter for female and male victims.
  • All Child Protection Institutions in the country need to be harmonized and coordination between institutes needs to be ‘established’. Since the disconnect of child protection institutes between provinces and lack of harmonized systems have made many units rather redundant, especially in KP& Sind. Whereas, no child protection unit currently exists in Balochistan.

Conclusion

Shortly after the conclusion of SPARC’s Fact Finding Mission, a man named Imran was caught in the Zainab case. For now, no DNA report had been handed over to Zainab’s family which creates doubts about the police investigation. Furthermore, there are rampant reports of police brutality to force confessions, which has cast a shadow of doubt over the entire investigative procedure. It is also worth mentioning here that unless the perpetrators of the 2015 Kasur child sexual abuse case are not punished, there can be no justice for victims of child sexual abuse in Kasur and the epidemic of this social sickness cannot be curbed.

Not only is there a need for making child protection a national priority but the apathy of concerned officials and the alleged involvement of police officials and politicians in running gangs involved in child pornography is beyond disturbing.

Rule of law and democracy seem like terms that mean little in the ‘absence of governance’ observed across the nation when addressing cases of child sexual abuse, especially in remote, rural or peri-urban areas of Pakistan. The pandemic is not limited to a single province and political point scoring on the issue shows the apathy of lawmakers in the matter. For all concerned officials marred by ignorance and lack of conscience, perhaps the following statement is quite pertinent:

“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have”.  - James A. Baldwin