Lahore: Child pornography is a crime in USA, UK, Zambia, South Africa and India,generally the punishments for the crime ranges from criminal penalties may include imprisonment, fines, registration as a sex offender, and restrictions on probation and parole. Civil penalties may include liability for damages, injunctions, involuntary commitment, and for perpetrators related to the victims, loss of custody or parental rights.

But when the Child Sex Abuse Scandal surfaced in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, it raised serious questions as we do not have any law for this offence. In 2014 MarviMemon of PML-N tabled a bill on this however till today it awaits deliberation. This heinous crime and business has been going on for years but it was being hushed up for one or the other reason till The Nation brought this news into the lime light.

As would have been expected, the blame game started on the very day the scam was unraveled and by evening the initial news was being manipulated to appear as a land grabbing issue; according to Rana Sanaullah the Punjab Law Minister the child molestation case was baseless. The Chief Minister Punjab said strict action would be taken against the culprits and they will face punishment according to the law (which does not exist). On the other hand the parents of the victims are complaining of lack of cooperation and sympathy from the police. No one is ready to hear their plea or record their statements apart from the few that have been recorded even when they have been extorted into giving huge amounts of money as blackmail by the people involved.

On the afternoon of August 9, around 40 to 50 people gathered at Charing Crosson Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam in Lahore to protest against the child abuse scandal in Kasur. They raised slogans against the government and asked for CM Punjab’s resignation. Slogans of Go Shahbaz Go were raised and then slogans in favor of PPP were raised too as some of the people these belonged to PSF which was not liked by members of the civil society present there.

Farzana Bari a human rights activist coming straight from Kasur where she spoke to the victims and their families joined the protest,said, “If only people had come forward earlier in 2006 when this was initially started, things would not have gotten so far. Even the police were telling them why they want to bring shame to their families?Due to this people were not ready to file an FIR.”  She further said, “If we want to make this a test case then we have to be very demanding and rigid in our stance. We must demand justice at all costs even with the government trying to cover up the case. This case should not be brushed under the carpet or let go in the hands of a committee that does not work. We should give the government a time frame to get results on time and the culprits should be punished severely.”

Khuram Zaki of Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP) said “It’s a shame that RanaSanaullah wants to cover up this scandal and blamed NGOs and civil society for creating a racket over nothing. We have seen that kids under 14 years of age have suffered rape for the past 10 years. It is time to take care of them and get them treated instead of passing such statements. RanaSanaullah first covered upSipahSahabaand now he is covering up these rapists, he should resign now.”

Apart from these speakers many other protesters expressed their anger and demanded justice for the children of Kasur.

Ayub Ayubi the founder of Renaissance by Social Innovation, Pakistan when asked by this correspondent about the incident said that we should keep three points in view. “Firstly it is in the rural area where the ‘ghairat brigade’ is always very active leading to people suppressing the issues. Even though the case is condemnable but we have to understand how those people live and what are their norms and traditions. It is upto us that we help those people understand the seriousness of the issue.” 

Movingon to the second part he said, “The kids should know that they can speak to someoneif they are in such a situation. They should be educated and told how to stay away from unknown and not allow anyone to touch them. Lastly those in the government and in police need to sort this issue out as soon as possible.”

Ayubi asked the Ulem as to play a role in handling these crises.“Apart from this the imams of the mosque should come forward and educate the masses in the light of Islam.”

Saiqa Raziq the Executive-Director of Centre for Psychosocial Support said, “This incident should be strongly condemned as it is against the human rights of those children. It is beyond belief that anyone from any sphere of life can support this act especially when it is coming from the government.”Regarding the condition of the children and families she said, “The whole incident is a huge trauma for these children and down the lane there is a possibility that they will fall into a vicious cycle because they know their body does not belong to them. In all this time they have not learnt to defend themselves due to which when they grow up they will have a lot of hardships in controlling their anger and frustration. This will leave a lasting impact on the parents as well as on society as a whole.”

Nida Tareen Barrister and the Principal of School of International law said, “Firstly as a mother I am in a shock since I have heard this news; these people are sick minded and they should be punished as severely as possible; but along with this we should start educating our children too about warning signs and what types of harassment they can face.”

When asked how to improve the situation she said, “Our children do not have the confidence of discussing things with parents; this has to stop, we have to give them space and build a relationship where they can comfortably approach the mother or father and open their hearts out.”On law and justice she said that from the legal point of view how do we expect people to come out and complain when they themselves do not know what their rights are? We need to educate the masses at the grass root level.

Muhammad Jibran Nasir an activist said that “Not too long ago M. Ali Naqvi made a documentary ‘Streets of Shame’ on child abuse. It showed how Pakistani children have sufferedfor a long time. This crime is not confined to one area; rather it is present even in the most posh areas of the city.One of the basic reasons for this crime to flourish in our society is parents’ negligence.”He further said, “When we speak of the Kasur incident we have to accept the fact that such crimes are happening in all over Pakistan in different colors or shades. Domestic workers are abused at home; children are raped while they are at work, and even when they go to schools. There are areas where people put up bazaars to sell kids. These issues have been simmering for too long and now they should be tackled in a manner that would not only resolve the crises but also help children to speak up and educate them about sexual education. They need to be aware of all the signs.”

When asked how to impart education in the children he said, “Even though social media is a great tool to impart education to children on this topic but people living in Kasur may not have access to it. This has to be done by the government in an organized manner according to law,”

To a question his comment was, “In the context of law, these children are of under 18 of age so they cannot contest, the video samples can be collected under the article of 184 and evidence can be used. There is another very important part that we cannot miss, according to story in The Nation one of the videos show a 10 year old girl being raped and videotaped by a 14 year old boy, which means he is a juvenile. That complicates the matter and raises questions on how children were brainwashed to become rapists.Moreover the identity of the victims should not be released but the culprits should be unmasked after they have been sentenced. This does not come under the act of terrorism as it is not being done at a time of war.Military courts are not for such cases, civil courts exist and this should be taken up there.”

General Mustafa (Retired) an analyst and strategist opined, “It is really shameful that in an Islamic state such a scandal has surfaced. It is pathetic that police and local administration is not taking interest in this and apparently favors are being granted on political basis which are even worse. All those who are trying to cover it up should be charged and sent to military courts. This scandal speaks very poorly of the law and order situation of the country.”

When told that public is demanding for COAS Raheel Sharif to take action as he did after APS Peshawar attack he said,“Justice can be provided by the Government only; COAS Raheel Sharif should not get involved.About getting hold of the videos sold abroad he said it was doubtful if anything can be about it since when we can’t do anything within our country will we do abroad?”

Asad Umar a Legislator from the PTI said “I have not seen anything as shameful as this incident. Wrong acts and crimes happen in all societies and states. But it is the duty of the government to look into the matter and provide justice to the victims of the incidents.” When asked what PTI will do if the government does not take the right steps he said, “PTI will put as much pressure as needed on the government and I will be taking this up in the assembly too.”

Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy Pakistani nuclear physicist, essayist and national security analyst shares his views on this incident, “The sexual abuse of children occurs more in situations where people are forbidden from healthy sexual activity. The Roman Catholic Church is one example – because priests are forbidden to marry or have any kind of sexual relations, they often become perverts and use young boys and girls to fulfilltheir lust.” He further said, “In all matters related to sex, Pakistani society is extremely repressed. This is very unhealthy and leads to terrible consequences. In particular there is widespread exploitation of children. The disgusting episode now in the press is met with an equally disgusting effort to hush up the matter. But will this evil exploitation of young children go away by simply drawing a curtain over it?”

On education and awareness he says “Personally, I think that a straightforward, scientific discussion of the human body and human sexual instincts is necessary for all people to be well adjusted and live normal lives. Children must be taught the basics of the reproductive system so that they can protect themselves from sexual predators.”

Tahir Ashrafi a prominent religious scholar and Chief of the All Pakistan Ulema Council said, “This incident presents the worst picture of our society, but the reaction from the government is even more disappointing. Today the Pakistan Ullema Council has demanded to take this case to Military Courts and put up a joint investigation team to take a look in this matter as a Judicial Committee will be no good in this case.” On the involvement of police and people trying to cover up the case he said, “It is very upsetting that the police and people from the government are saying that very few incidents have taken place; it is not about how many acts have taken place, but why did they happen.Evenif one incident happenedit should be dealt with an iron hand and not be covered up.When Quaid-e-Azam made Pakistan his aim was to make it livable for everyone and justice be provided for all but things are not like that now.”

Regarding punishments for the culprits he said,“We demand that in the next three months the culprits should be publically hanged at the Minar-e-Pakistan so they are made an example of.He said he would like to ask those Human Rights Activists who are against capital punishment what was the fault of the children and their families and why should these culprits not be handed?”

He said that in the light of Islamic injunctions “such people should be taken to the highest mountain and thrown down the top of it so that they are made an example for all, however under this government it will not be possible. If justice is not provided then we will go to Kasur on Friday and stand by the families till they are not provided justice.”

The Kasur scandal has shaken the moral fabric of our society, no one anywhere in Pakistan or abroad has left any stone unturned to condemn it and stand in support of the victims and their families many of who are also victims of blackmail by these unscrupulous elements. Now everyone looks to the government to ensure that not only exemplary punishment is meted out to these perpetrators but legislation is done to prevent anyone doing such a crime in future.