"The court handed down death on four counts and life imprisonment to Imran Ali in the rape and murder of the little girl, Zainab."
A 24-year-old man has been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Zainab Ansari. He pleaded guilty to murdering a total of 8 children, including the 6-year-old girl.
His received his sentence in a Lahore court, on 17th February 2018.
Zainab’s case made global headlines after she initially went missing on 4th January. Police tragically found her body in a Kasur dumpster, believing she was raped and strangled to death.
While Pakistan witnessed a public uproar over the murder, officers searched for her killer. Two weeks later, they arrested a man named Imran Ali on charges of kidnapping, rape, murder and terrorism.
Despite leaving little clues, police caught Imran by obtaining DNA from hundreds of suspects. The 24-year-old’s sample matched with Zainab’s, prompting the arrest. He eventually confessed to the crimes, as well as admitting to seven other child murders. These cases reportedly date back to at least over a year.
He also revealed he lured the girl away by saying he would bring her to her parents, claiming they had returned from their trip to Saudi Arabia. Reports claim Imran knew Zainab and had visited her parents’ house previously.
The 24-year-old allegedly told police he didn’t intend for the 8 children’s deaths. He also claimed he suffered sexual abuse as a child and had no job. However, Government Prosecutor Ehtisham Qadir Shah told Reuters:
“The court handed down death on four counts and life imprisonment to Imran Ali in the rape and murder of the little girl, Zainab.”
There is a 15-day window in which Imran can appeal the sentence. However, this scenario looks unlikely considering he already confessed to the crimes. Meanwhile, he will be tried for the other cases at a later stage.
The sentencing has sparked many reactions on social media, with well-known figures giving their thoughts. Some have even called for a public hanging, but this is a divided opinion. While some have agreed with this, including Zainab’s parents, others showed different views.
#ZainabMurderCase Speedy trial and quick justice! BRAVO! Zainab's rapist & murderer sentenced to death 4 times! Hope we can get done with appeals quickly & get this demon hanged!!!
— Hamza Ali Abbasi (@iamhamzaabbasi) February 17, 2018
This is nothing compared to what this demon did, but still..relieved to hear that Zainab's murderer has been sentenced to death 4 times. Glad to see a speedy trial & hearing! Hope our law keeps trying to serve justice. #JusticeForZainab #ZainabMurderCase
— Asim Azhar (@AsimAzharr) February 17, 2018
Anyone claiming for openly torturing and openly killing or hanging Zainab’s murderer is only hinting that they are not much different from him. Our humanity, decency and laws are all we have, if we lose them we become animals and no different from the criminal.
— Ali Moeen Nawazish (@am_nawazish) February 17, 2018
This suggestion of a public hanging understandably stems from anger. Not just with this particular case, but of the growing problem surrounding child sex abuse in Pakistan.
In 2016, Sahil, a child protection charity, recorded over 4,000 cases of child sex abuse in the country, discovering that 6,759 abusers were involved in 2,810 incidents. They also found that between January-June 2017, 1,067 girls and 697 boys suffered from sexual exploitation.
With such high, concerning numbers, this highlights the need for action in tackling child abuse. However, is it possible for the Government to conduct a public execution? And is it an appropriate deterrent?
What does the Law in Pakistan say?
In January 2018, the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice sent a revision to the Council of Islamic Ideology on a bill. This revision concerned a proposed amendment, which asked for public executions for those charged with kidnapping a child under the age of 14.
Initially, the Council said they would advise against the amendment, speaking at a news conference on 8th February. Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said:
“There is no need to amend ‘Criminal Law Amendment Act 2017’ for a modification in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Act’s Section 364-A with regard to kidnapping or abduction of a person under the age of 14.
“Rather there is a need to ensure punishing culprits involved in such heinous crime in order to build trust and confidence of judiciary among victim’s family.”
However, by the 15th, they stated the Government didn’t need to alter laws to let a public hanging happen. They said:
“The government and the courts can go ahead for public hanging to a convict sans amending any law, if severity of the crime demands punishing the culprit publicly.”
They cited Section 10 of the Special Courts for Speedy Trials Act 1992 and Rule 364 of prison rules as a reference. Yet, there are still some issues with these rulings.
For example, Section 10, which did allow public executions, was actually repealed in 1996. Meaning the country cannot really rely on it to enforce such an act. In addition, Rule 364 states a total of “12 respectable male adults [can] witness an execution”. But it should take place “inside a prison [or into] the gallows enclosure”, held outside the prison.
Should Pakistan hold Imran’s execution in a communal spot, it’s very likely a huge crowd would gather to see, well beyond the limit of 12 individuals. The crowd would also probably consist of many women and children, as well as men.
Therefore, neither of these laws can give solid weight to this debate. However, the Council did include one aspect which shows a public hanging may not actually be needed. They explained modern media can be just as effective in deterring potential criminals if the execution is widely reported.
Perhaps in this case then, Imran’s sentence needs to have wide coverage instead. As well as a lack of strong, supporting laws, one could argue it’s likely Imran’s death will be privately held. Despite many people demanding for public justice.
Until then, we will have to see what the Government will decide for the 24-year-old man.