Pakistan's Shame

By Anees Jillani
Outlook India
August 11, 2015

Child sexual abuse is a worldwide phenomenon. The Catholic Church has been tarnished due to the involvement of dozens of its priests and pastoral workers in the sexual abuse committed over a period of 60 years and the bishops and other seniors downplaying it. The British papers reported just the other day about the involvement of former British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, in abusing children. A few months back, it was reported that some Pakistanis had been abusing dozens of under-age girls in Rotherham in England.

Does the fact that such abuses have taken place worldwide make the sexual exploitation of children in the Hussain Khan Wala village in the Qasur District of Punjab Province, near the border with India and about an hour's drive from Lahore palatable and tolerable? Should we cover it up because the publicity surrounding the incident will adversely affect Pakistan's reputation? Should the families remain silent to cover their honour?

Pakistan is passing through a semi-anarchical situation at present, with hardly any institution, appearing to be in a satisfactorily functioning order. At times, I feel that the top priority of every Pakistani is to invest in real estate. Just last night, while appearing in a TV program on the Qasur scandal with a minister from the ruling party, I could hear the minister talk about real estate investments in the 50 minute program during the intervals. He obviously was more concerned about this subject than the sexual abuse of a few village boys.

The two chambers of our Parliament, and the provincial assemblies, seldom fulfill the quorum stipulation, and meet for a few hours for a few weeks during the whole year anyway. The judicial institution is more concerned about its own reputation and infatuated with procedural technicalities than the issues confronting the nation. The sole aim of the executive branch, assisted by the bureaucracy, is to survive and complete its five years and make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time as they may not be in power tomorrow.

Anybody coming across a problem in such an anarchical state of affairs is definitely unlucky; and must be loaded with hard cash to come out triumphantly at the end. One Rubina Bibi said her 13-year-old son was a victim, but when she tried to file a report at the Ganda Singh Wala police station a month and a half ago, "the police station clerk told me to get lost and I was thrown out." Another mother, Shakila Bibi, added: "I went to the police station to file a complaint, but instead of registering a report, they took my son into custody." Her 15-year-old son is still in jail, she said.

Such a treatment would not have been meted out to Rubina and Shakila if they had been able to bribe the police officer or if they had been related to someone within the ruling party clique. So Rubina and Shakila's fault was their poverty. The perpetrators are said to belong to influential families in the village. The abuse has continued since 2007 when most of the victims were school students. It is estimated that 400 to 500 children were abused.

The Regional Police Officer had come to Ganda Singhwala a month ago and constituted an investigation team under the Superintendent Police to investigate but it never completed its report. Had it been done, the matter would not have been agitated by the villagers with so much force.

The Government has already announced what it is good at: Judicial Inquiry. This appears to be the new panacea for any ill afflicting our nation. What is this inquiry going to discover after a few months of proceedings and after spending a few crores? That there was abuse; can't we tell this just by looking at the videos? Or that the number was not 400 to 500 but 40 to 50? Will this make a difference? Or that the sex was consensual? Do the minors have the right of consent before indulging in sex?

What the government should do is to roll a few heads for failing to discover this scandal which had been going on since 2007; and for refusing to register a FIR. The public wants the trial to take place either in the military courts which goes to show their faith in the current legal system. Some want the victims to be compensated as if this will cure the trauma and the emotional damage they have gone through. A free laptop will not solve their problems. The perpetrators must be punished, with heavy penalties which should be recovered and then distributed amongst the victims.

This scandal is not the only one of its kind in Pakistan. It is a normal practice nowadays to film rapes and then blackmail the victim for life. Harsh and swift punishments may not solve the sociological and social problems but it at least will serve the ends of justice. This is the least we can do in the present circumstances…


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