Rape is one of the cruelest types of crimes. It is an invasion of the most intimate parts of the human body. Nowadays, sexual violence is widespread. As a clinical psychologist, I love to meet different people, primarily criminals, because I want to better understand their ways of thinking. When I heard about the case involving Zainab Ansari, I felt the pain; that is why I decided to meet the convicted rapist Imran Ali to discuss and know why he committed such an act. This is my first public writing since I interviewed Ali.
Why is sexual violence so common in the younger generation? Why can’t they feel the pain of children? I visited the Court Lakpat, where Ali was being held to find these answers and more. Initially, the police didn’t allow me to meet Ali for an interview; however, they finally permitted me to speak with him for roughly 15 minutes. I realized he would soon be hung for his crimes—in fact, the judge ordered him to be hanged four times.
I was taken to a small room where a table and two chairs were available in the opposite direction. For my protection but also as protocol, there were hidden cameras for recorded conversation. One of the few professionals who is afforded the luxury of speaking to him without being recorded is his lawyer.
As a psychologist, I am skilled in the art of starting a conversation and breaking down a person’s resistance. I started my questions randomly; It took about 5 minutes before I asked the all-important question: ‘did you know Ansari? ‘she is your victim.’ At first, he denied it, but once I reminded him of the judge’s punishment, he suddenly spoke in honest details about his actions.
I was literally shocked when he said he had a lust to commit sexual crimes against young girls, which started at the age of 17 until now in which he was only 24-years-old at the time. But sadly enough, he had raped and murdered what is believed to be between 8 to 10 young girls; he said nobody knew of his criminal acts because he hid all the evidence but oddly enough, not in Ansari’s case.
Once Ali was captured, he told police officers that a “genie” was responsible for the rape and murder of those girls. And according to him, he was possessed by the genie’s entity, so much so that he even contemplated hanging himself because he was concerned that his lust for young girls would never end.
I asked him the question did he realized and felt the fear of Allah? Did he consider that he would have to answer to Allah for his miserable acts? Did he feel the pain of his victims? My goal was to convince him to accept his violent acts in which he did somewhat. My plan was completed.
And when I finally reached home, I thought many questions, some that were coming so fast, they brought about strong emotional reactions as the tears rolled down my face. In October 2018, Ali was executed at a prison in the eastern city of Lahore, where he had been hanged with a rope in the presence of a magistrate and a doctor.
The case of Zainab Ansari is complicated. Our society has a lack of knowledge about sexual abuse. And while my job is to be objective as a psychologist, my responsibility is also transparency with my clients and myself. And personally, I offer no shame in saying that I think Ali’s death should have been held in front of the public as a lesson learned to anyone who thinks of sexually assaulting a person in general but children in particular.
Sexual abuse usually involves direct physical contact, touching, kissing, caressing, rubbing, oral sex, or penetration of the vagina or anus. Sometimes the sexual offender can get gratification by showing off to a child or by watching or filming a child taking off their clothes. I believe some facts give rapists what they feel are justifications for sexual assaulting their victims.
1. Such a person always has an excuse for his behavior, allowing himself to shift the blame onto his victim or some life circumstances.
2. A person capable of committing a crime against another person, particularly sexual violence, considers himself unique, having the right to violate laws that non-rapists must obey.
3. Abusers often underestimate the damage done to their victims.
4. The rapist considers himself as strong, independent and they cannot experience genuine relationships.
Many rapists are characterized by a sense of possessiveness. After the sexual assault, some criminals rely on having a different relationship with their victim, which goes against what a healthy relationship should be.
I think the lack of child protection in our society and the misogyny inherent in Pakistan are exacerbating sexual abuse. After the comprehensive investigation of what Ali did, a question still ran through my mind: will the rape and murder of Ansari be the tipping point for Pakistan to try to protect its children finally?
After her death, Pakistan approved the first national child safety law, known as the Zainab Alert Bill similar to the AMBER Alert system in the United States. Under the bill, the language reads,
“Any individual found guilty of child abuse faces a minimum mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and also stipulates instigating legal action against any law enforcement officials who cause any unnecessary delay in investigating such cases within two hours of a child being reported as missing.”
Still, even with this law in effect, we will have to wait and see what happens next.