Murder of Zainab, 6, stirs outrage in Pakistan

Students light candles during a protest rally in Lahore to condemn the killing of Zainab Ansari in Kasur. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018

Murder of Zainab, 6, stirs outrage in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The city of Kasur in Pakistan’s Punjab province has exploded into violence following the sexual assault and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose body was found in a rubbish dump on Tuesday. She is reportedly the 12th child to have been murdered in the last year in, or close to, Kasur — a city with a long history of pedophile scandals.
Protesters infuriated by perceived government inaction over this latest crime attacked a hospital, a police station, and government offices, bringing public transport to a halt and forcing the closure of the courts. On Thursday, residents attacked the homes of politicians.
While the restive city calmed somewhat on Friday, the nation remains enraged over the police’s failure to arrest the perpetrator of the crime.
“We want justice, and we hope that the killer of our daughter will not go scot-free,” Zainab’s father, Muhammad Amin, told Arab News.
“We hope the killer will not only be arrested but also given exemplary punishment.”
Zainab is believed to have been abducted outside a religious tuition center she attended just 100 meters from her home on Thursday, Jan. 4. Her parents were in Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah at that time, and she was in the care of her maternal aunt.
A number of social, political and religious figures have visited the bereaved parents in recent days. And Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa assured Zainab’s family that the criminal would be caught and punished.
Kasur resident Mohammed Junaid said police had not taken the spate of child murders seriously and that no arrests have been made during their investigations.
“The people of Kasur are left with no option but to protest against the inaction of the government and the police,” he told Arab News, adding that they would “set all government buildings in the city on fire” if the culprit was not arrested soon.
The police aggravated the situation further on Wednesday when they shot and killed two protesters. Later, Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif apologized to the families of the victims and promised compensation.
“The whole nation should come out to express solidarity with Zainab’s parents and demand the rulers to take cogent measures to put an end to such incidents,” Shakil Iftikhar, a businessman in Kasur, told Arab News.
There are signs, though, that the government may finally have been jolted into action.
Talking to Arab News, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb emphasized that all political parties should join together to create awareness about child abuse and help the government enact effective legislation.
“We will try our best to include the issue of child abuse in the curriculum by taking all parties on board,” she said, while urging the nation to stay calm as the government was doing its best to live up to people’s expectations.
It is not just Kasur that has witnessed an alarming increase in the sexual assault of minors. According to Sahil, a non-governmental organization for victims of violence and sexual abuse, there were 4,139 cases of child sexual abuse — including abduction, missing children and child marriage — in Pakistan in 2016, an average of 11 incidents per day and a 10 percent increase on 2015.
Sahil’s annual report, “Cruel Numbers,” revealed in 2016: “Following the previous year’s data, more girls have been sexually abused this year as well. The reported cases under major crime categories are: abduction 1,455, rape 502, sodomy 453, gang rape 271, gang sodomy 268 and 362 cases of attempted (child sexual abuse). An even more serious crime is committed when the victim is murdered. A total of 100 victims were murdered after sexual assaults.”
As tensions continued to run high on Friday, the Punjab government appointed Regional Police Officer Multan Idrees Ahmad as head of the joint investigation team for Zainab’s murder.
Punjab Government spokesperson Malik Ahmed Khan told Arab News that the police have unearthed a connection between Zainab’s killing and recent incidents of a similar nature in Kasur.
Khan said that experts from the forensic science laboratory had been working on the magnification of an image of the suspect.
“We are establishing a criminal database for the first time in the country’s history to identify suspects through facial recognition,” he said.
He claimed police were “close to the suspect now.”

Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

Updated 24 October 2018

Pakistan prime minister calls for peace talks with India

  • India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries
  • 500,000 Delhi soldiers are positioned in the portion of Kashmir India controls

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following elections in the neighboring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed.”

Khan made the announcement during a speech at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh. The leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payments crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power, the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the audience, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and its Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Delhi has stationed about 500,000 soldiers in the portion of Kashmir it controls, where separatist groups demand independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Khan also told the FII event that his country looks forward to a strong investment partnership with Saudi Arabia, including on energy projects.

Pakistan needs two oil refineries to meet demand, Khan said, and talks are underway with Saudi investors about the projects.

During the panel discussion Khan discussed investment, a corrupt-free Pakistan and “Naya Pakistan.” Naya Pakistan refers to a return to the principles of the country’s founding fathers: Truth, justice, meritocracy, the welfare state and, above all, the education of its people. He said it was particularly important to raise female literacy in Pakistan. 

Khan has been in power for 60 days but has inherited a massive debt. “We need to increase our exports because we have a shortage of foreign reserves,” he said.

Khan is looking for mix of loans from the International Monetary Fund IMF and “friendly governments” to address the shortfall. 

Key priorities were fighting corruption and creating jobs, Khan added, saying clamping down on money laundering was a major priority for the government. 

“Corruption is what makes a country poor,” he said. “It’s the difference between the developing world and an underdeveloped country. Corruption does two things; it destroys institution and diverts money from human development.”

With 100 million people below the age of 35, Khan said unemployment and housing were big pressures on the government but that Pakistan has embarked on an ambitious program to build five million homes in the next five years. He said the information technology sector could be an area where Pakistan could improve its exports and provide new jobs. 

“Pakistan is a country with potential. We have lost our way since the 60s but now Pakistan is ready and our biggest resource is the youth. And today is the best time to invest,” he said. 

Minerals, gold, copper reserves, zinc, gas, unexplored gas and tourism were areas that investors would be interested in, Khan said. 

“There is a vast amount of mineral wealth in Pakistan. We have some of the largest gold reserves in the world, as well as reserves of copper and zinc. Tourism is also a vital sector and has flourished in recent years.”

Khan said that Pakistan had now “controlled terrorism.”

“We need peace and stability and when Afghanistan’s situation settles, terrorism will end and the investments will grow to the central Asia region.” 

Khan said he admired China for tackling two problems that were the main issues facing Pakistan — poverty and corruption. 

In the past China had a large population that was on the brink of starvation but it had now brought 7 million people out of poverty and clamped down on corruption. Khan said that he was traveling to China next month for help in these two areas.