LAHORE: The allegations that children were sexually abused and exposed to pornography by Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB) Faisalabad employees could not be sustained, an investigation team constituted by the Faisalabad commissioner says.
However, the report says the children have reported physical abuse, poor food and being forced to work.
The report calls for an inquiry against CPWB DO Umar Daraz Bhatti, the whistle blower, for a “failure of supervision” and has labeled the abuse charges as “politically motivated.” The report also calls for the transfer of four CPWB employees (attendants Shahbaz, Amin and Ashraf and barber Haq Nawaz).
The commissioner had constituted a team consisting of City Assistant Commissioner Zaheer Jhappa and SP (Administration) Imran Kishwar and Additional Commissioner Hafiz Shaukat to conduct an ‘independent inquiry’ into the matter.
On October 10, the City Police Officer Bilal Siddique Kamiyana had made SP (Administration) Imran Kishwar the inquiry officer in the criminal case filed against nine CPWB employees by CPWB DO Bhatti.
The case had been registered under Sections 374 (unlawful compulsory labour), 377(unnatural offences)/511, 294 (Obscene Acts and Songs) and Child Protection Act Section 35 on September 29. Earlier, The Express Tribune had reported on October 7 that People’s Colony Circle SP Arif Shahbaz Wazeer, then investigation officer, had, in his preliminary inquiry report, submitted that “the allegations levelled in both FIRS seem to be motivated by revenge and to harass the [CPWB] employees and hoodwink… authorities.”
SP (Administration) Imran Kishwar, the new investigation officer and a member of the inquiry committee, told The Express Tribune that the CPWB had expressed reservations over the earlier police investigation.
Kishwar said the issue was reported to police on September 29 when the CPWB Director General Amna Imam visited the CPWB Faisalabad office in Raza Town.
After the DG’s visit, 33 of the 39 children at the CPWB Faisalabad office were shifted to the Lahore headquarters and the department initiated a formal inquiry against nine employees for sexual abuse, showing pornography, physical abuse and forced labour. The DO also registered two FIRs in the Madina Town police station against these employees.
Kishwar said he visited the CPWB office on October 10 with Madina Town SP and investigation officer Ali Akbar and spoke to DO Bhatti, recorded statements of the impeached workers and examined the office records.
“The DO has been posted for four and a half years in the same office…the only record he could provide us was one formal complaint by children shown a pornographic movie one month ago,” he said. “This was after protests had started [around two months ago] against him.”
Kishwar said the inquiry committee visited the CPWB headquarters in Lahore and recorded the children’s statements.
“None of the children has said he was sexually abused. One child would say, ‘I heard X was abused,’ but when we asked X, they would deny it,” he said.
He said they had asked the DO Bhatti for a list of the children who had been sexually abused but were not provided one.
He said the most common complaint was being fed only pulses for five or six months.
“Some of the children complained of being slapped but there was no complaint of severe torture [sic],” he said. “Some of the children said they were hit with a belt but that was a long time ago.”
He said the committee felt that there was a supervision failure on the part of the DO.
“Some of the children said they had been asked to wash the dishes and do other chores for which staff had been hired,” he said.
“Regarding the charges of showing children pornography…we understand that two-three attendants used to watch a [regular] movie on cable at night. If a child would ask them to put cartoon’s on, they would snub them,” he said.
“We asked them if there was any video player on the premises but none was found,” he said.
Earlier, on October 11, the police team had submitted a report dismissing the matter as strife between DO Umar Daraz Bhatti and other employees. It had recommended that the case against the workers be set aside.
– With additional input from Kashif Fareed from Faisalabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2012.