According to official data, 750 cases were registered against those suspected of committing crimes against children as young as three-years-old. These figures, from the Central Police Office (CPO) pertain to the Punjab and indicate a staggering 30 percent increase in this type of violence from the previous year; or a rise from 12,536 kidnap cases to 12,736. Equally worrying is that these statistics only came to light after the police were ordered to take swift action to find the culprit in the Zainab rape-murder case.This therefore raises serious questions about the performance of the police in Pakistan’s largest province; one that is routinely accused of hogging the lion’s share of budgetary resources. Indeed, even after the tragic case of seven-year-old Zainab — no senior officers lost their jobs on the grounds of gross neglect regarding this or the dozen or so similar cases that occurred in Kasur over the last year. Nor did anyone voluntarily step down. That the victim’s father appealed to the COAS as well as to the CJP to deliver justice is a stark reminder of just how gaping the trust deficit remains between the citizenry and those whose job it is to protect them.The Zainab rape-murder case has stirred the nation, prompting mass outrage and calls for public executions. However, the government seems uninterested in addressing the matter of police incompetence. Instead, it thinks it is enough to donate Rs 10 million to the little girl’s grieving family. But not before taking out advertisements in most of the national dailies to let the whole country know just how benevolent it is. We say that it might have been better to redirect this (a large part of this) sum to overhauling local police forces in terms of training and access to the latest forensics equipment; not to mention eventual salary increases. Though we warn against the concept of performance-related pay schemes — for as we have seen across the Kashmir border, this all too often leads to the phenomenon of fake encounters.Thus the government’s priority must be the strengthening of institutions, including de-politicisation of the police. For all too often have powerful politicians been found to be protecting the accused. This has to stop. And something that needs to start happening is the introduction of sex education at the primary school level across the board in Pakistan. Because to be forewarned is to be forearmed. And to those on the religious right who may think of playing the conservatism card, we say don’t. Not when we live in a country where three-year-olds have to arm themselves against sexual predators. *Published in Daily Times, January 14th 2018.