|Members of a Pakistani civil society hold a demonstration against |
a child abuse scandal, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015 in Lahore, Pakistan (AP)
Husain Khan Wala, Pakistan: Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan accused police on Monday of failing to do enough to break up a paedophile ring in Punjab province, the prime minister’s political heartland.
As I mentioned in my first post on this story, the police had to have been covering for the perverts for the horror to have continued so many years and to have grown so large. The police need to be investigated!
Accounts of abuse in the central Punjabi village of Husain Khan Wala were splashed across the front pages of Pakistani newspapers over the weekend, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to be questioned on the issue in parliament.
Villagers said a prominent family there has for years forced children to perform sex acts on video. The footage was sold or used to blackmail their impoverished families.
Rubina Bibi says her 13-year-old son was a victim, but when she tried to file a report at the Ganda Singh Wala police station a month and a half ago, “the police station clerk told me to get lost and I was thrown out.” “My son ... is in the videos, he is a victim,” she said.
“Our children were forced into this. They were humiliated. But the police are treating them like criminals.”
Another mother, Shakila Bibi, added: “I went to the police station to file a complaint, but instead of registering a [report], they took my son into custody.”
Her 15-year-old son is still in jail, she said.
If an inquiry were to find inadequate police work or complicity, the scandal could engulf the provincial government, headed by the prime minister’s brother.
They will have to find a way to keep the provincial government out of it, otherwise the mess will be glossed over rather than cleaned up.
District Police Officer Rai Babar said the force would act decisively.
“I assure you that we are taking this very seriously and there will be a fair and very transparent investigation,” he said.
On Sunday, Sharif said in a statement: “[The] Prime Minister ... has expressed extreme sadness ... the culprits will be given the harshest possible punishment.”
Villagers say hundreds of children were affected, although they were unable to give names of particular families.
Police have arrested seven suspects, but downplayed the scale of the abuse, suggesting a land dispute may have sparked accusations.
Already, a weak attempt to cover it up!
“It’s a very murky situation,” said Babar.
He added that seven cases involving 11 children had been registered.
Activist Mobeen Ghaznavi says many children were abused and that he had 130 video clips containing abuse.
“People are afraid. They are being threatened and intimidated,” he said.
Suraiya Bibi said that when she complained to police, her family was threatened by the abusers.
“One day some women in the village showed me these videos. My son was in them. My world collapsed,” she said.
“Kids were being intimidated in these videos with weapons, they were drugged. Kids as young as five-years old were made to perform oral sex.”
In one clip seen by Reuters, a boy cowers and cries before putting his hands over the camera lens.
In another, a groggy boy is beaten and abused as a man tells him, “I will not stop until you smile.”
Three 15-year-old boys told Reuters they were abused for several years.
Two said they were threatened with weapons that included knife, an axe and a gun.
“He threatened me if I did not compromise, he would kill me on the spot,” one said.
One 18-year-old told Reuters he had been abused since he was 10. He stole cash and jewellery from his family after his abusers blackmailed him, he said.
“I was going to school one day when these boys picked me up and beat me up badly. Then they drugged me, and when I woke up, they showed me these videos they had made of me,” he said.
“They told me that they would bury me alive if I told anyone ... I thought about killing myself every single day.”
Lawyer accuses police of protecting culprits
A lawyer for the victims of a major child sex abuse scandal in Pakistan on Monday accused police of protecting the culprits, as activists warned the case was only the tip of the iceberg.
At least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of 25 men who used the hundreds of videos they produced to blackmail the youngsters’ parents, according to Latif Ahmad Sara, a lawyer and activist representing the victims.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, where the abuse took place, has ordered an independent judicial probe and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed stern action against those responsible. But there are suggestions of a politically influenced cover-up.
The village at the heart of the scandal, Hussain Khanwala, lies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN) party’s Punjab stronghold. Police have arrested at least seven people over the allegations but Sara accused them of dragging their feet —
some of the videos date back to 2007.
“The police are protecting the criminals, they are supporting them and have provided them an opportunity to escape the village,” Sara told reporters. The head of Punjab’s Child Protection Bureau, Saba Sadiq, described the case as “the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history”.
But an initial police probe, carried out last week at the behest of the provincial government, described the allegations as “baseless”, a conclusion immediately rejected by local media and rights activists.
'Most horrendous incident in history of country'
Reham Khan wife of PTI chairman Imran Khan has said that Kasur serial child abuse case is the most horrendous incident in history of country and we should discharge our due responsibilities as citizen rather than indulging in political point scoring on this count.
She said this while talking to media men here after meeting affected families in village Hussan Wala here Monday. Onerous responsibility rests with Punjab government to take effective steps for curbing such incidents, she stressed.
If chief minister of Punjab cannot come to Kasur then he should not come, she said adding people don’t need him and they only need justice. Judicial inquiries have yielded no effective results in the country, she remarked. Witnesses are there in this incident and culprits have confessed the offence, she held. There was no need to constitute commission, she underlined. Government should administer justice to affected families rather than constituting commission, she underscored.
“Chief Minister Punjab should look at the faces of the affected children. Their faces are telling that they have been molested. Chief Minister Punjab should take notice of this incident as father and citizen and provide justice to affected families, she demanded.
"Kasur incident is not first incident of its kind in the country. Such incidents are taking place in every city of the country including Punjab, Sindh and KPK . These are 284 brave children who have raised voice against this offence”, she observed.
If she is right, and I have no reason to doubt her, then a national investigation needs to occur without political interference. Knowing what we know about Pakistani men in Rotherham, England, lends serious credibility to Mrs. Khan's accusations. Pakistan needs to decide whether rampant child sex abuse is acceptable or not, and if they decide that it is - there must be international consequences.
It is our responsibility that effective steps be launched to counter such incidents but apathy of Punjab government to this heinous crime has reached such peak that case is being complicated rather than bringing the culprits to justice, she regretted.
She urged the media not to take this incident on the yardstick of rating or for the sake of headlines but it should raise voice seriously against this incident. “ I am grateful to media for highlighting this incident," she added.