Who killed Zainab?

22 Jan 2018

It is imperative to develop a wing in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) similar to the BAU of the FBI, which can recruit well-educated and well-trained specialists to track down and apprehend unusual criminals

This brutal murder of Zainab shook the entire country to its core. It garnered both national and international outrage. But, Zainab’s is only one case among thousands. According to a recent report, 2,760 cases of sexual assault on children were recorded in Pakistan in 2017. The highest number of sexual attacks was reported in Punjab at 1,755. 790 incidents were recorded in Sindh, 96 in Balochistan, and 52 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Like the family of Zainab, these children who were victims of sex crimes in the past are still awaiting justice.

In Zainab’s case, in particular, there is an urgent and vocal demand for the capture and punishment of the perpetrator from all segments of society. The Chief Justice of Pakistan took suo-moto notice of the incident, the Chief of the Army Staff publically expressed his grief and sorrow, and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif assured Zainab’s father upon meeting that perpetrator will be brought to justice. At this juncture, the question arises: are the right tactics being used to capture Zainab’s killer?

It is important to recognise that the rape and murder of a young child is not the work of an ordinary criminal, but rather the actions of an extremely sick individual. People who prey on women and children to commit heinous crimes have unusual psychological illnesses that set them apart from other criminals. The traditional police force cannot handle cases that involve such individuals. In Pakistan, police officers are not trained to investigate serial killers or sexual predators.

All around the world, specially trained investigators are employed to work on cases involving violence and sexual depravity. In the US, for instance, the FBI has a special Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) that is comprised of an elite team of trained specialists, including criminal psychologists, criminologists, and special detectives. These specialists search for perpetrators based on criminal profiling that, based on the nature of the crime, they use to shed light on the likely characteristics of the perpetrator. By using behavioural analysis, traditional police work, as well as informational and forensic technology in conjunction, the investigation is able to narrow in on the culprit, eventually leading to arrest. Unfortunately, Pakistan lacks the resources needed to investigate in this manner.

People who prey on women and children to commit heinous crimes have unusual psychological illnesses that set them apart from other criminals. The traditional police force cannot handle cases that involve such individuals

In recent years, Pakistan has shown improvement in its capability to fight terrorism. The success of the Anti-Terrorism Force is commendable. This illustrates that Pakistani forces if given proper training and equipment, can get the job done. It is imperative to develop a wing in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) similar to the BAU of the FBI, which can recruit well-educated and well-trained specialists to track down and apprehend unusual criminals. Failing that, no amount of media pressure, military, political, or judicial attention will be able to yield meaningful results. Creating a special task force is not a far-fetched idea – any number of friendly nations are available to collaborate with Pakistan to train personnel and establish a dedicated investigative team.

Of the underlying problems that Pakistan must confront, the Kasur incident is merely the tip of the iceberg.  First, Pakistan’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, outpacing its means. Family planning and population control should be recognised as a government priority so that society as a whole can have sufficient resources to nurture future generations.

Secondly, mental health problems need to be addressed. The services of psychologists and psychiatrists must be provided in our schools, colleges, and universities. There is a growing incidence of mental health diseases in the contemporary era and failing to treat psychological issues can lead to far more significant problems down the road.

Similarly, we need to adopt sex education and increase awareness amongst people of all ages about what is appropriate and inappropriate sexual behaviour. As a society, we must emphasise sex education at home, teach children to identify abuse, and give them the proper tools to protect themselves.

Third, mental illness must be de-stigmatised. In the West, seeking treatment for a mental disease is regarded as normal as any physical disease. In Pakistan, however, an individual who is suffering from a psychological illness is labelled as either unstable or crazy. The negativity surrounding mental illness in Pakistan discourages people who need help from seeking it, often until it is too late.

Appropriate resources ought to be allocated to improve security infrastructure and technology. In the Kasur case, the face of the killer cannot be identified – despite CCTV footage – due to the low resolution of the cameras. The government must put in place minimum standards for CCTVs in terms of the resolution and the backup time so that the faces of perpetrators are clearly identifiable.

No single entity is responsible for horrific incidents such as the one in Kasur. A multitude of shortcomings at the governmental, societal, and individual levels all contributed to it. Until there is a concerted effort to address our country’s collective flaws and deficiencies, such episodes will continue to occur while the criminals will remain at large, fully able to attack again.

Published in Daily Times, January 22nd 2018.

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