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No More Silence on Child Abuse

Nor More Child Abuse

How come it took nine years for the truth about the horrifying pursuit of a paedophile gang in a village in Kasur to emerge? Some two dozen members of the gang would force-manage a child abuse scene, film it, take it to the victim’s family and get paid handsomely by blackmailing them. During these years, the gang, reportedly, victimized some 400 children and produced about 280 films, some of which were sold abroad to certain websites. And this was not being done secretly — the whole village of 5,000 people knew about it but no one would stand in the way of the gang. The police seemed to have been conniving at the crime, the political leaders looked the other way, if not patronizing and the victims’ families were either sceptic about the police coming to their rescue or demurred ignorance forced by the family honour.

Now that the sad saga of Pakistan’s biggest child abuse scandal has burst on the scene, there are questions the authorities must answer as well as some food for thought as to what happened and why, inviting brainstorming by the national leadership across the political divide. In short, the Hussain Khanwala village apocalypse has earned lingering shame for the entire nation.

The question is why it took so long for the people of Hussain Khanwala take to the streets. It appears they did not trust the State, which to them was more on the side of the criminals than on theirs. They did not respond to the calls by police from mosques because they did not believe the police. Then there is a question: What prompted the provincial government and district police to give the entire episode a twist claiming that more than a child abuse national tragedy, the issue at contention is a piece of land – a blatant lie endorsed by the initial official inquiry. For the forceful national outcry reflected from the media coverage and civil society’s tougher stand, the provincial government was set about consigning this case in limbo of protracted prosecution leaving the aggrieved parties’ wounds to be healed by the Surgeon Time. Rightly, then the Lahore High Court declined the Punjab government’s request for constituting a judicial commission on the child abuse scandal. If the Punjab government had concluded that local police was incompetent and could not be trusted for fair and honest investigation then why are those Johnnies still in police uniform?

One would hate to call the condemnatory resolutions passed by the Senate and other legislative houses as routine. But what to do if you know that a bill seeking legislation against child abuse tabled by Marvi Memon (PML-N) in 2014 still awaits deliberations by the parliament. In the absence of a clearly-laid-out anti-child abuse law, punishing offenders like the Hussain Khanwala paedophile gang remains problematic. Of course, the self-esteem the children have lost cannot be retrieved nor can the trauma and the scars on their souls healed. A total national commitment is in order that such a ghastly act is not repeated anywhere in Pakistan. Crime-specific enactment and stiff punishment of the guilty in this particular case is the need of the hour. Imperative it is also that the officials who acted as silent spectators as this heinous crime was being committed should get an exemplary punishment for their grim dereliction of duty. On a broader canvas, there is the need to redefine some of the cultural moors like family honour which, in its present, context tends to encourage offences like child abuse.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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