Islamabad - Just a few hundred meters away from a local police station, several sex workers are standing under the shade of trees in Markaz F-7, waiting for their customers as evening shadows elongate.

Life is normal around the corner — a well-known pickup point — with some youngsters getting amused by the presence and actions of the provocatively-dressed sex workers, mostly girls in their 20s and early 30s. As soon as a vehicle makes a stop, a sex worker rushes towards it to make a deal for the night. As a quick negotiation is held with potential customers, several vehicles line up, creating a spectacle for passerby and onlookers.

It’s a daily business and happens under the nose of Kohsar police. Such scenes can also be witnessed almost every evening, or the other, by the roadside near McDonalds and Silver Oaks apartment complex.

Islamabad police under Tariq Masood Yasin, the inspector general of Islamabad police who took charge in April last, seems oblivious or unwilling to take action against roadside prostitution, much to the distress of concerned citizens. 

Yasin, who claims that he is massively overhauling Islamabad police, was snubbed Thursday by Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan for revealing details about thwarting a terror attack in the capital.

After assuming charge in April, Yasin gave a 15-day deadline to police officers to ensure effective policing. However, it seems that the warning was perhaps just a typical announcement made by a newly appointed officer.

There are allegations that some police officials are extracting money by patronising and turning a blind eye to prostitution in the capital. 

Several parents and families have expressed deep concerns. “I was very embarrassed when, after coming out of McDonalds recently, my children asked me about why there was a rush of cars when they saw girls peering into vehicles,” said a concerned parent.

Sources in the local police claim that some of the police officers are direct ‘beneficiary’ of the business. “The police would surely act in some cases: when a customer asks a prostitute to sit in the vehicle after striking a deal, the police would hardly let him go far from 100 meters. They would chase, stop, harass the customer and demand money for his release as if he was going to commit an immoral activity,” claimed a police source.

“The money is equally divided between the policemen on duty and the prostitute before letting some other customer gets trapped by the prostitutes in the same fashion. The police use prostitutes as bait to trap the customers and mint money in the guise of law-enforcers,” the sources in local police claimed. They also alleged that the money goes from ‘bottom to top’ in the police department. However, the veracity of the claim could not be authenticated.

The capital city sex scenes are changing and it’s easier and easier to get a girl for sex, with the police ignoring the activity. Investigations reveal that most of the sex workers are from other cities. “It is easy for them to hide their identity before the customers if they are from other parts of the country,” the sources said.

“They are confident, well-trained and also enjoy patronage of local police,” the sources added. “They would use fake names and never disclose their identity in reply to a frequently asked question by the customers about their whereabouts.”

The investigation revealed that the younger girls available roadside push their services for Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 for an all-night visit and the same girl may cost up to Rs 10,000 if she is available in a residential flat of posh area.

Markaz F-10, Karachi Company and E-11 sector have specific points where these prostitutes are available at night but a customer can even pick a prostitute from roadside with no exception of sector and locality.

Some would lead the customer to a nearby short-time accommodation against an extra payment of Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.

A detailed survey revealed that several guesthouses, residential flats in posh localities, massage centres and beauty salons are being used to run this business.

Guesthouses are also involved in running other illegal businesses as gambling and liquor. The Supreme Court last month directed Islamabad police to submit a report on illegal activities in guesthouses. 

During the proceedings, the CDA counsel told the court that the civic agency came to know that some guesthouses had been turned into casinos and requested the court to direct the police to take action against them.

He alleged that some police officials were also involved in the business. He also alleged that a large percentage of the guesthouses were selling alcohol openly.

Prostitution across the country, particular in the federal capital, is thriving with the addition of foreign girls belonging to Central Asian countries and the introduction of massage parlours. 

The official sources said that most of the prostitution dens where foreign prostitutes were working are situated in sector E-11 and other posh localities. In the capital, majority of the foreigner prostitutes belong to Russia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. Most of the business and booking was done on cell phones through trusted references. Under the directives of interior minister, Islamabad police took action against such rings in 2015 but it seems they have returned back to work.

According to the sources in the local police, Islamabad has more than 300 brothels and the business is on the rise. They alleged that it all is happening with police compromises. Listing the details of the brothels, they said some of them are situated in F-6/1, F-6/2; Old Embassy Road, Sector G-6/4; F-7/2; F-11 Markaz; F-11/3; Panorama Centre, G-11 Markaz; Bhattai Road, F-7/1; Rana Market, F-7/2 and F-8/3.

When contacted, SHO Kohsar police station, Rukhsar Mehdi said that the police are taking action against prostitution.

He was of the view that it is very difficult for the police to put hand on them when they are found alone at roadside. “Without concrete evidence and in the absence of their customers, they would get bail easily,” Mehdi said.