Last year on August 8, The Nation broke the news for the largest ever child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history. Soon after Punjab’s leading child protection official called for a federal inquiry into the matter after a total of 400 videos of children being forced into having sex were discovered. While most of the children in these videos were well under the age of 14, some kids as young as six years of age were also viewed in these videos.
What is perhaps the most abominable about this scandal is how these films were sold in Hussain Khanwala village in Kasur district in thousands. Being sold at Rs.50 these videos show how low a value is given to the innocence of little children in this country. After talking to some journalists at The Nation where I started working the same time this news broke out, I was informed how different newspapers had been writing about sexual offences at Kasur for years but because no one had the complete story these stories never made it to mainstream media. It wasn’t until early August when Kasur’s victims’ parents clashed with police during a protest against their failure to prosecute the men who orchestrated the scandal. When the reporters went down to inquire about the 4000 protestors on the Dipalpur Road near Dolawala village in Kasur they realized how the local police had been trying to cover up the scandal from surfacing and hiding the main perpetrators.
The Nation’s reporter Ashraf Javed who compiled this news story revealed that a local MPA of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had a crucial role in the withdrawal of the allegations against the main suspect in this case. This MPA was none other than Malik Ahmed Saeed who had been pressurizing the police for the suspect’s release also paid Rs. 5 million in bribe to police.
While within a week after the Kasur tragedy became a matter of national significance, six other suspects were taken in police custody, little was being said about the main perpetrator who orchestrated this series of sexual offences for over a decade. According to parents of the victims the abuse was orchestrated by a gang of up to 25 young men and teenagers led by two men in their 40s. The gang arranged the abuse, perpetrated it in many cases, and then used the videotapes of the assaults to blackmail the children and their families to hand over millions of rupees. Many of the children stole gold ornaments from their parents to pay off their abusers to keep their ordeal secret.
After the Kasur fallout, parents informed the reporters that they had to sell their gold ornaments in order to pay off the blackmailers for the videos that they had made.
Soon after this Kasur became the epitome on which today Child Protection Bill stands. While various politicians highlighted the need to protect and rehabilitate Kasur’s children as their own local police at Kasur, who were also accused of being involved in filming the offences, tried to spin the Kasur child abuse case into a land dispute. According to RPO Sheikhupura two groups namely Master Zafar and Naeem were on either side of 19 acres of land. While asserting that these two groups were highly influential people started to believe that the RPO and the groups themselves were being influenced into believing that the sexual offences were a matter of lesser significance to the ‘greater’ land dispute.
Political leaders such as Imran Khan labeled this as the N-League’s fallout, but after visiting the place only once or twice the Kasur tragedy has been forgotten by the journalists who highlighted it, the activists who further propagated it and the political leaders who used it as a tool against the ruling party. A year later the victims of Kasur have been forgotten and little is known about whether or not they have been rehabilitated and integrated into leading normal lives.
What Kasur teaches us is how partial our police force is and how easily it can be manipulated to work against their responsibilities and how gullible our government is into believing that a country’s biggest child scandal to date was a land dispute of lesser importance.