Victims of circumstances: As authorities turn a blind eye, child prostitution in Pirwadhai remains unaddressed

Published: April 22, 2012
Locals claim police refuse to acknowledge the menace exists. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

Locals claim police refuse to acknowledge the menace exists. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID


Known to many as ‘bhais’ or ‘brothers’, young boys near the general bus terminal in Pirwadhai are there for a reason. Though the police do notice their presence, which the locals suggest is an ominous sign of bustling sex trade in the area, they don’t seem to care much about them.

“They are seen as street children during daytime. They survive on rancid leftovers often scooped out of garbage cans and at night they moonlight as commercial sex workers serving paedophiles,” said Hamid Nawaz, an elderly resident of the area.

“There are no specific figures but surely their number have gone up steadily compared to 1999, when the military police patrolled the area,” he added.

One can find many ‘hotels’ and rooms of houses in secluded areas which are specifically rented out to these ‘brothers’.

“Right after the evening prayers you can see individuals standing inside the bus terminal and its surrounding streets, gesturing to catch the attention of any passersby and asking for kamra bistar (room or bed) in a low tone,” says Saleem, a newspaper agent.

“If you ask what other kinds of services they provide, they answer unabashedly – beautiful boys,” he added.

According to a flying coach company assistant, there are similar places in front of traffic chowki (check post) as well, where these brothers roam about in streets from 7pm until they wish to retire for bed.

On the main road from Mandi Chowk to Pirwadhai Bus Terminal, clients go around to select around the ‘menu’. These areas are hot spots where these youngsters operate. Their fee used to be Rs100 but has now soared to Rs200.

While narrating his ordeal to The Express Tribune, Shan*, an abuse victim, said, “I still remember a good man leaning his weight upon my back, breathing in my ear and wrapping his arm in affection near my neck. But I never knew he didn’t mean well.”

He added, “His arm was too tight across my throat. His raspy breath was jarringly familiar. I still feel a cold splash of memory returning.”

Aadil*, another victim, remembers exactly how he entered into this profession. He said he was playing with his teacher, who offered to take his photographs and began to fondle him. Upon protest, the teacher said he loved him and that was how people showed love to each other. The teacher continued to abuse him for three years.

Waseem Khan*, once a child prostitute himself, who now abuses these children, said he is returning what he received from the society. “I have pent-up tensions inside me and now I have no control over myself,” he said.

Giving what they have received from the society seems to be the cycle the brothers get involved in a very young age. Shahida Latif, who is among the very few counsellors dealing with male victims of child abuse, said the common perception is that boys are less likely to suffer from damage compared to girls. “However, there is a need to provide rehabilitative services to them which have not been considered as important so far,” she said.

“The situation is becoming precarious. Some of the boys initially engage in menial jobs such as dish washing at the hotels but when they find out their income cannot meet their expenses, they go into prostitution,” said Zaman Khan, a transport company manager.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the police are involved. But the cases of children’s exploitation put an intense spotlight on the way they monitor and respond to reports of abuse,” he added.

Adeeb Faraz, who owns a bookshop in the neighbourhood, said he brought up the issue with a police official once and much to his surprise, the official simply refused to acknowledge their existance.

According to Laiba Siddique, a child psychologist, fear, panic attacks, sleeping problems, nightmares, irritability, outbursts of anger and sudden reaction upon being touched are natural traits among abuse victims.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Muhammad
    Apr 22, 2012 - 10:26AM

    after reading this article, i pray the day of judgement comes soon !


  • Kamal
    Apr 22, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Pakistan is such a free country. Freer than so-called western, liberal democracies. Recommend

  • Rizwan Ali
    Apr 22, 2012 - 11:56PM

    Your newspaper always touches subjects hitherto untouched. I remember how in late 90s and especially after 2005 earthquake this child abuse went up after homeless quake affectees brought their families to Rawalpindi. Many children were abducted and put to abuse. Kids from immigrant families from NWFP also faced this exploitation. Authorities should open their eyes at least to avert such incidents in future catastrophes. Aren’t they responsible for the present plight of kids in the country?


  • Shoaib kamboh
    Apr 23, 2012 - 5:04PM

    Just Horrible! Karachi is no exception in this regard. Rag pickers, beggars, street children of this city are suffering from the same abuse. Nobody looks after them. They are from all races – Punjabis. Pathans, Balochs, Kashmiris Bengalis, Nepalis, Beharis etc. Several NGOs are working but only Edhi is helping them and giving them shelter. Child trafficking must be stopped by the concerned officials. Who is there to report about them and take action? Police behavior is callous as some of them have reportedly been involved in child abuse cases. God, have mercy on us.


  • Fahad Hussain
    Apr 25, 2012 - 12:01PM

    I don’t say all the police department is corrupt. Shoab is right in saying that the police is indifferent as they themselves back such crimes to get their monthly. Can a child ever dare to go to police station when even adults fear to visit it? I urge all good persons among the police to do something about it.


  • Aneesa Clinton
    Apr 27, 2012 - 2:40PM

    Being a Pakistani in origin I appreciate that you have started showing concern about child rights. When I visited the quake-stricken areas of Kashmir and NWFP along with a relief group in 2005 many reports of child abduction came to light. Since then I have been engaged in promoting children’s cause by raising my voice at many platforms.


  • Farooq Mirza
    May 3, 2012 - 11:59PM

    Being a social activist during my long stay in Pindi, Pirwadhai area was my special focus when I did research on child abuse, which I would like to share with you some other time. Shocking stories came to light. Hat off to you for raising this very important topic again directly related to our coming generation. Who would not like to see his/her kids safe?


  • GM Naz
    May 5, 2012 - 11:34AM

    Pirwadhai has been a hotbed of crime since the time of Ziaul Haq as it was during those days that Afghan war-affectees were allowed to settle there and they brought all the ills like drug and Kalashnikov culture etc along with them and child abuse was one of them. I do not mean to say that we Pakistanis are all angles and all Afghans are bad but a bunch of criminals among them gave bad name to this otherwise brave and hard- working race in Pakistan. Their presence attracted many from NWFP, Kashmir, South Punjab etc. Iraqi Kurds, Iranians, Bengalis, Arabs, Africans also stay in homes and hotels there. I don’t know whether they are there at the moment or not but I saw them some 10-15 years ago when I used to travel a lot for business purposes. Unwise policies have affected Pakistan with many diseases and child abuse is one on them.


  • Nadeem
    Jun 2, 2012 - 11:31AM

    Just talking about the abused, what about the the abuser? Who made him abuse? Remove those conditions that turn innocents into culprits.


  • Sohail Khan
    Jun 2, 2012 - 11:41AM

    Let me tell you the recent very interesting happening in Pirwadhai area. The day Iesco office was burnt there, one Iesco official was found saying to the protesters power load shedding is because of you misdeeds as if he was an angel from some other area.


  • Muhammad Tahir Javed
    Jun 2, 2012 - 11:58AM

    Many NGOs are working in our area to prevent child abuse with no results at all. They are simply usurping foreign funds. I accept without any shame that this evil is more prevalent in our province compared to other provinces the reason we, perhaps, are more conservative and keep our women indoors and keep many restrictions on them although situation is changing slowly and steadily. But in my view conservatism is not the only reason. It’s the lack of education that is mostly responsible for such crimes. and our Madaris need to take care of this.


  • Shafwat Abbas
    Jun 2, 2012 - 1:52PM

    Unrealistic expectations of parenthood, a strained relationship with our life partner, financial problems, drug abuse, alcoholism, and a history of being abused as a child are examples of problems that can cause parents to take out anger and frustration on their children. Even very loving parents can lose control to the point of child abuse. So we have to reform ourselves first to reform the society. Mere pray the day of judgement comes soon is no solution to the problem.


  • Shoaib Awan
    Jun 3, 2012 - 1:10AM

    I agree with Tahir Javed that our Madaris, despite the negative tales circulating about them, have a great role to play to eliminate this evil from our society. But the billion dollar question is “Physician heal thyself first”. In other words, as Shafqat Abbas has put it “we have to reform ourselves first to reform the society. Mere pray the day of judgement comes soon is no solution to the problem.” Our Allah is Merciful, so instead of predicting gloomy scenarios we should remain optimistic and seek forgiveness from Him.


  • Iqbal Hussain
    Jun 6, 2012 - 2:00AM

    Sad scenario indeed, both for the sinner and the sinned against. It’s a vicious circle. There has to be an end to it somehow. To achieve this objective let’s hate the sin not the sinner, otherwise reforming persons would become too difficult a task.


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