A joint Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) – AGHS fact-finding team has reported receiving credible testimonies indicating large-scale sexual abuse of children over many years in Husain Khanwala village in Kasur district.
The HRCP issued the report of the fact-finding team on Wednesday. The team visited the village and the relevant police station on August 11.
“It is clear that a heinous crime has been committed against children. The references made to a land dispute in the village are irrelevant and nothing can justify avoidance of impartial investigation and prosecution,” the report states.
“The fact-finding team agrees that the crime remained concealed largely because the victims’ families paid extortion money. They were also intimidated. The police could not have been unaware of the video clippings freely circulating in the area and rumours of abuse of children. Their failure to take action lends support to charges of policemen’s collusion with the culprits,” it states.
The team was informed by the Ganda Singhwala police that eight FIRs had been registered against 15 suspects by family members of the several victims till August 11. Police said 12 of the accused were already under arrest and two, Irfan Ahmed and Waseem Sindhi, were at large. Haseem Amir, the main accused, his father and two brothers were amongst those arrested.
The earliest FIR was registered on July 1, 2015, by Malik Usman, brother of one of the victims. Two more FIRs were registered the same day by other complainants. Police claim they first learned of the rapes towards the end of May 2015.
During its visit to the village, the team met with some of the victims, members of their families and Mubeen Ghaznavi, a resident of the village who claimed to be a social activist and the spokesperson for the complainants.
He said the existence of the videos was revealed about seven to eight months ago. The villagers kept silent about the matter for many months because of the scandalous nature of the clippings.
He also claimed that the police had recovered many more clippings than the 72 mentioned to the media. He also claimed to have heard the testimony of one of the victims before the police who, he said, had told them that almost 400 such clippings exist.
He said the DPO and the RPO were, under political pressure, trying to make it out to be a land dispute issue. The team also spoke to mothers of two of the victims.
“There is a body of material and credible testimonies indicating that a large number of children had been sexually abused at least since 2010,” the report said.
According to the estimate of the team, most of these children were between 10 and 16 years of age when the assaults took place. The team estimated that several hundred video clippings of the abuse existed. It is, however, not possible to give a conclusive estimate of the number of children involved, the report said.
“In the presence of clear and convincing evidence that a heinous crime against children of this village has occurred, the issue of the land becomes irrelevant in the context of the duty of the state to investigate and to take all necessary measures to protect these children and young persons from exploitation,” the report said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2015.