Child sexual abuse: Kasur in spotlight yet again

Timespan between first case of child abuse and most recent of serial killing is one year

Muhammad Shahzad September 23, 2019

LAHORE: Kasur district is once again under the spotlight after another case of assault and murder of minors has been reported in Chunian tehsil.

Two more children have reportedly gone missing. The time span since the first case of a child going missing was about a year. Investigations so far revealed that it was a case of serial killing. Chunian, despite being a small town, witnessed protests as people gathered on the streets and stormed the local police station for the police’s alleged negligence after dead bodies of the victims were traced out by a passerby.

The provincial government, in an unimpressive decision, removed the district police officer (DPO) and SP Investigations over incompetence as well as negligence in the cases. Punjab government has formed a five-member joint investigation team (JIT) to probe the matter. The team had set foot on the ground and was busy collecting evidence. Tasks of the JIT included shortlisting the suspects, shortlisting the suspects having a criminal background and scientific evidence like geo-fencing.

Kasur rocked by protests after sexual assault, murder of three minor boys

The government has also planned on collecting data of census of the locality, as was done in the 2018 Zainab murder case in Kasur. So far, investigations suggest that the suspect is a local resident similar to the perpetrator in the Zainab murder case, Imran Ali.

In Kasur, the case of child pornography emerged in 2015 in Hasnain Khanwala village. In 2018, serial killing of minor girls in Kasur was highlighted after the Zainab murder case.

The nation was on its path to recovery from the tragic murder of three minor boys in Chunian when another case surfaced in Sammundri tehsil, Faisalabad.

So far, five cases of assault and murder have been identified by the police. The accused persons also filmed the victims of assault and reportedly blackmailed them into silence.

During this fiasco, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the rights of children, Sahil, issued a report which stated that 1,304 cases of sexual abuse, an average of seven rape cases per day, in the country have been reported by the media between January to June 2019.

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At least 729 girls and 575 boys became victims of sexual exploitation. The cases under major categories included 378 of abduction, 139 of rape, 153 of anal rape, 46 of gang rape, 88 of gang anal rape whereas 12 boys and four girls have been murdered after sexual abuse, the report stated.

Most victims, around 414, were between 11 to 15 years old, followed by 171 victims who were 5 to 10 years old, and 117 victims who were 16 to 18 years old, according to the report. At least 75 such cases were reported in which the victims were only five years old.

For Punjab Police and Punjab Government, dealing with the issues of child sexual abuse and violence against children at the massive level is not new. Since 2015, almost every year, a major issue challenging the provincial administration’s top brass has taken place. However, the approach in most cases has consistently been the same, where cases are eventually swept under the rug.

Even in the police department, cases of child abuse are treated as routine matters as evident in most cases that have occurred in Kasur district. Although the top brass of the provincial administration has repeatedly issued orders and guidelines on how to deal with cases involving children and women, none of the instructions seem to have materialised on the ground.

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The most worrying part of the incident is that the federal government, as well as the provincial government, does not have a coherent, well-planned child protection policy. Punjab government, after the 2015 Kasur child pornography scandal, has delineated the outlines for child protection. However, no concrete step has been taken so far.

Veteran Children’s Rights Activist Iftikhar Mubarik commented on the tragic incidents of child abuse and said that policy on child protection must focus on the prevention of such cases. “Issues related to child abuse demand a long-term plan and a comprehensive road map for the protection of children.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2019.

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