In the days since the case of little Zainab Ansari came to light, the courts and the police have made begun to make headway. A joint investigation team has been formed; although of course the head of this had to roll. For apparently, grief is no barrier to having all the old prejudices resurface. In this case, it had to do with how one cannot ‘trust’ an Ahmadi to get the job done of delivering justice. The police, for their part, have also made a DNA breakthrough linking Zainab’s murderer to those of a handful of other little girls local to the Kasur area.There are those who have credited two directly contrasting images as having played an important role in capturing the public imagination and dominating international headlines. The latter, after all, is always crucial if we want to see our political leadership act promptly. For none wants to be singled out for failing to show Pakistan’s ‘soft’ face on the world stage.The first image to do the rounds was of Zainab’s lifeless body, left to rot on a rubbish dump. The second showed her alive and looking directly at the camera. And, indeed, there might be something to claims that these have helped in the fight to bring the guilty to account. Yet we have to say that both mainstream and social media should have known better. There is never any justification for robbing a child of dignity in death even if all of us allowed this to happen in life. Except, of course, if the parents’ consent had been sought and was thus forthcoming. Or have we become so desensitised as a people that we no longer register (sexual) crimes against the girl child unless and until we have before-and-after pictures to incite our moral outrage? In fact, we say that no one should have been familiar with the identity of Zainab at all. For this only encourages the bloodthirsty media, as it goes scavenging for the scent that will led it directly to the family and their other children. It seems that we, the fourth estate, have learned nothing from the case of Dr Aafia’s son, then a minor, when he was reunited with his aunt; complete with live feed.For now that we all have seen Zainab’s face — justice is no longer blind. Thus it becomes harder to resist the calls to publicly hang the murderer. It may, as her father hopes, act as a deterrent; thereby keeping other children safe. But here, too, we have to advise caution. The death penalty has no place in a civilised society. Naturally there will be those who (rightly) argue that if Pakistan were a civilised nation then what happened to this girl child — and to so many others like her — would never have happened in the first place. To this, we say, a robust criminal justice system ought to be the only acceptable disincentive. Yet we will never get there while we continue to ignore the root problem.And this means no more jumping on the self-loathing-Pakistani bandwagon or, in some cases, gravy train. In other words, just as taking a life for a life will change nothing — neither will exploiting a death to turn this into a manufactured culture clash between East and West. For social media has also been full of tall tales of how western societies are sufficiently safe that seven-year-old girls are able to walk about alone. This, of course, is simply not true. But more than this, such false narratives serve to render child sex abuse a particularly Pakistani problem. Thus instead of looking outward and trying to learn from other societies how they tackle such issues, we begin gazing inwards and end up deciding that there is nothing much to be done apart from the intermittent cries of, off with his head. With all their heads. *Published in Daily Times, January 13th 2018.