Abdul Rehman Nawaz Bajwa
What led to the making of ''ZARRA Act 2019''
By: Abdul Rehman Nawaz | Faisalabad, Pakistan |The author is a second-year Law Student at Government College University, Faisalabad
On the 4th of January, 2018 a tragic event took place in the city of Saint Baba Bulleh Shah (A Punjabi Sufi Poet), Kasur where a minor girl named, Zainab went missing. She went missing from her hometown and was found in a dumpster near Lahore 5 days later. She was living with her Uncle while her parents had gone to Saudi Arabia for Umrah. She fell prey to a serial killer who was mentally unstable and had previously committed similar odious acts.
This incident wasn’t the first one in the city of Kasur nor Pakistan. The convicted man, 24 Years Old Imran Ali confessed to 7 other similar tragic incidents. One cannot begin to fathom what the victim and their family members would have had to bear because of what had happened. The news of this event spread like wildfire and nationwide protests emerged. The pain of the victim’s family was felt by every individual, all over the country.
Since the advent of Islam (1400 Years ago), great importance had been laid on the status of women. Therefore, one would like to believe that horrific mistreatment of women would cease to exist in Muslim society or occur at an incredibly low percentage. The Islamic Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through his words and actions, he had instructed everyone to maintain pleasant conduct towards every woman, mother, daughter, wives. Women should be treated well and with respect and there should remain no crime towards women. However, all the instructions and sermons fell on deaf ears.
Mal-administration and Mal-discussion:
Parliamentary form of Government is often negatively remarked due to its mal-discussion and which in result crimes that often go unchecked because it usually takes an absurd amount of time to legislate against the pressing issue at hand. Unfortunately, it takes the happening of an odious event to get the government’s attention to legislate on it. Lack of awareness regarding rehabilitation centers and mental health problems adds to the woes of the country.
Over time, Pakistan began legislating against such issues. Pakistan had introduced the Protection of Women Act, 2006 as well as different sections of the Pakistan Penal Code such as:
· Section 359 –Kidnapping
· Section 367 – Kidnapping to subject grievous hurt
· Section 375 – Rape
· Section 377-A – Sexual Abuse
They address disgusting acts against women and whose sentences can be imprisonment up to 25 years, life imprisonment, or capital punishment. Legal action is extremely important in such cases, so that appropriate punishment is delivered.
The nationwide protests that were held called for swift catching of the culprit and the efficient policing led to the catching of Imran Ali who worked in the neighborhood of the victim. He had a total of 9 offenses of sexual assault against minors registered against him, however, he confessed to 7 counts, and out of the remaining two; one was being tried in Anti-Terrorism Court, and in the other one his DNA did not match.
The protests also led the Elected-Representatives of the Parliament of Pakistan to prepare, present, and legislate a bill for the protection against kidnapping and abuse of minors. The solution to this was to introduce a bill similar to the AMBER Alert, USA 1996 in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Asad Umer, an elected member of the National Assembly with the government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf introduced the ZARRA Bill in February 2019 and it was named after the victim, Zainab, and goes with its full form Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2019.
The ZARRA Bill, 2019 was introduced in the N.A and was subsequently passed on October 8th, 2019, and in March 2020 and it got approval from the Senate (Upper House). Currently, ZARRA Bill has been forwarded to the provincial assemblies of Pakistan for approval and subsequent enactment of this bill.
Through this bill, a new federal agency named after the Bill will be formulated which will serve the objective of raising awareness against child abductions, child abuse, and providing a one-window operations platform for informing the public about any child abductions in their locality. The public can also play a role by notifying the authorities of any information regarding the abduction which will be vital to the recovery. Each citizen must play their role in understanding such matters and also being aware of the legal steps that can be taken if faced with such brutal incidents. It’s time for everyone to come together and protect their children by being proactive and completely aware of the ways to deal with such crimes.
After the authorities got the DNA matched with Imran Ali, Police along with the other authorities carried on with their investigation and it all lead them to charge Imran Ali, the perpetrator as guilty in the court of law. The Court awarded him capital punishment (legally authorized hanging of a convict) and he was hanged at 5:30 AM after which the father of the victim remarked ‘‘Justice has been served’’.
This tragic event clearly poses questions on the government and why there always has to be an incident before they can formulate the required laws. This incident also led the Parliament to the legislation of ZARRA Bill which will go a long way to provide protection and recovery in cases of similar nature. The government, as well as the citizens, must work together to prevent such incidents and to serve Justice to victims while sending a clear message to the perpetrators so that such brutalities do not have to be documented in the future.