MANAAL ALI WRITES-Pakistani headlines took a devastating turn on February 16, in the wake of news that nine-year-old Madiha, a child in the Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was brutally raped and murdered. The Inspector-General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recently took 16 suspects into custody.
As investigations continue, Twitter and Facebook users worldwide have commented on the case. One twitter user says “Stop making excuses! Children of Pakistan are screaming for help. Child sexual abuse is happening in homes, streets, madrassas, villages, cities. Yet another child brutally raped & murdered in #Hungu. #JusticeForMadiha #ChildSexualAbuse (@akbar_fareeha.) A Facebook user suggested the “death penalty for such cruelty without [a] doubt. Forget about human rights. Is this behavior humane to what they [have] done to this poor girl of only 9? No rapist should be spared for such an ill act.”
Why has this particular case been very prominent in Pakistani news? Because the Zainab Alert Bill was recently passed in October. This bill claims to punish and therefore deter crimes like this. Much like Madiha, six-year-old Zainab was kidnapped from her home in Kasur in 2018, then raped and killed by Imran Ali, a child predator and serial killer. Her case sparked such outrage that the National Assembly proposed formation of a Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) to: 1) maintain a database of missing or abducted children as well as work alongside helpline 1099, which was originally launched by the Ministry of Human Rights to assist women with their religious and legal protection and rights to inheritance; and 2) to send alerts of such cases across the federal capital. The Zainab Alert Bill also proposes a possible death sentence, life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for up to to 14 years for people who abduct children.
Sadly, it took the deaths of Madiha and Zainab to propose such legislation for abducted children. Pakistani citizens hope the bill, once passed, will help curtail such heinous crimes.