Child abuse scandal shocks Pakistan, families angry at police

Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan accuse police of failing to do enough to break up a paedophile ring in Punjab province, the prime minister’s political heartland.

HUSAIN KHAN WALA, PAKISTAN (AUGUST 9, 2015) (REUTERS) – Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan accused police on Monday (August 10) of failing to do enough to break up a paedophile ring in Punjab province, the prime minister’s political heartland.

Villagers in the central Punjabi village of Husain Khan Wala told Reuters that 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.

Mothers who did not want to be identified, spoke to Reuters on Monday.

One said her son was a victim, but when she tried to file a report at the Ganda Singh Wala police station, they locked up her son instead.

“They (police) did not register a case, but instead of registering a (report), they took my son into custody. I pleaded before the SP (Superintendent of Police) that he was innocent,” she said.

Her 15-year-old son is still in jail, she added.

Another woman said the abusers threatened her family when she complained to police.

“I fainted after seeing the video of my young, beautiful child. I immediately registered a complaint (to police),” she said.

“They were cruel to children. The kids were being intimidated in these videos with weapons like axe and choppers. They were drugged,” she said, adding that children as young as five years old were made to perform oral sex.

If an inquiry found inadequate police work or complicity, the scandal could engulf the provincial government, headed by the brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

District Police Officer Rai Babar said the force would act decisively. He said It was a very murky situation

“Seven cases have been registered and as I said, 12 accused are under arrest,” said Babar.

Police have arrested seven suspects, but downplayed the scale of the abuse, suggesting a land dispute may have sparked accusations.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a statement saying “all attempts made to suppress or twist the information, and there have been many, should be strongly condemned and must also be probed.”

On Sunday, Sharif said in a statement: “The culprits will be given the harshest possible punishment.”

Lawyer Latif Sra, representing some of the victims, said that he has personally met hundreds of parents who had not yet come forward to file official complaints, either out of fear or shame.

Activist Mobeen Ghaznavi said he had 130 video clips containing abuse.

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 a knife, an axe and a gun.

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.