Broken angels.

Byline: Zarrar Khuhro

ANOTHER day, another Zainab. Or is it Farishta this time? Really, who can even keep track anymore? The script plays out predictably, beginning with scattered posts and details on social media, escalating into outrage and hashtags, and then in response to the growing cacophony, 'notice' is taken at the very top and we all cry out for 'exemplary punishment' and public hanging/ castration/ stoning to death of the culprits. If and when the culprits are arrested, that is.

Of course, during the course of all this, the issue does indeed become politicised and while one can, from a lofty pedestal in an alternate universe where the 'system' (whatever that means) works, condemn such exploitation, one does (in the real world where nothing works as it should) understand that without this, no action would be taken at all.

When the family of the (then) missing girl approached the police, they were told that their 10-year-old daughter had likely run away with 'someone', and were then made to clean the police station as punishment for daring to bother the police. It was only after the aforementioned script had started playing out that the FIR was registered. That is, once the images of Farishta's decomposed body had started making the rounds, once the shouts became too loud to comfortably ignore.

Several hours had passed, hours in which a small neck could easily have been snapped.

We've seen all this before. Sure, we remember Zainab with her angelic smile and her pink jacket, used and discarded like so much trash. We all remember her name; it's burned into our national consciousness, if not our conscience, by the power of repetition.

But do you remember Eman Fatima? Fauzia? Noor Fatima? Ayesha Asif? No? What about Laiba or Sana Omar? These are a few of the girls who were raped and murdered in the same city before Zainab's name ever reached our ears. Don't ask for the names of the others, because I don't know them, and it's likely you don't either. Then there's the one girl who survived and was, at least a year back, undergoing treatment in a Lahore hospital. I don't know what became of her either. Who can keep track?

But I do remember that Zainab's case sparked action not just because we knew her name and face, but because it had become a political embarrassment for the then Punjab government. Her funeral prayers were led by none other than Tahirul Qadri, who was already tightening the noose of the Model Town massacre around the neck...

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