KASUR: Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday ordered a judicial inquiry into the Kasur child abuse scandal.
The CM directed the Punjab home department to request the Chief Justice Lahore High Court Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik to immediately form a commission made up of district and sessions judges to conduct the inquiry, said a press release issued by the Directorate-General Public Relations, Punjab.
"Those involved in the case will be severely punished. They will not be able to escape their fate," he said, adding, "The affected families will be provided with justice at any cost."
A joint investigation team (JIT) was formed under the leadership of Commissioner Lahore Division Abdullah Khan Sumbal and Additional Inspector-General Operations Punjab Arif Nawaz Khan to investigate the case.
A report submitted by the JIT states that six people have been arrested in connection with the case, while three suspects are absconding. Raids are being conducted to capture the fleeing suspects.
'There is no land dispute'
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed while speaking to the press on Sunday said that his party would submit a condemnation resolution in the Punjab Assembly.
Rasheed said the PTI would hold protests against the scandal and will not rest until those responsible for the incident are brought to justice.
"This incident is a failure of the government. There is no land dispute, that is a separate matter which has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of children." he said.
"There should be a complete inquiry into the incident and the judicial commission ordered by the Chief Minister should initiate its probe immediately," he said, adding that the CM should also take note of intimidatory tactics employed by the police in the area.
"No one's lives and property are safe in Punjab," he added.
Also read: High-ups play down child abuse scandal
'Disturbing' reports, says Zardari
Former President and PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari termed reports of the Kasur child abuse scandal 'very disturbing'. He called for a thorough probe and investigation into the case, and bringing the culprits to justice.
He also directed the PPP Punjab chapter to prepare a report about the children in Kasur who were sexually abused and filmed by criminal gangs for blackmail and extortion.
The former president urged PPP lawmakers to investigate the reports and raise the issue in the parliament so that justice could be served.
"The reports are a slap on the face of the government and society, and must not go unnoticed," he said.
'Punjab government is sleeping'
Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq while speaking to the press on Sunday accused the Punjab government of sleeping "while the Punjab police sides with the culprits instead of the victims."
The JI emir said that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif should have taken notice of the incident immediately.
"The provincial government should have reached Kasur to address the grievances of victims," he said, adding, "Instead, those who were protesting against injustice were baton-charged."
Senior minister of the Punjab government, Rana Sanaullah, while talking to DawnNews on Saturday, said the inquiry had concluded that no instance of child sex abuse had been reported, adding that reports to this effect surfaced after two parties involved in a land dispute registered "fake cases" against each other.
Sanaullah had said that almost eight years ago, incidents of child molestation and videos of such acts to blackmail families had been reported in the area, adding that cases were registered against those involved and the culprits were apprehended.
The provincial minister and PML-N stalwart insisted that the scandal had been created by rival parties who were involved in a fierce land dispute.
Earlier, District Police Officer Rai Babbar had said there were “certain misperceptions” about the scandal.
It was reported that about 280 children, most of them less than 14-year-old, of Husain Khanwala village, about 5km from Kasur, were sexually abused and filmed. Their families had also been blackmailed.
A gang had been suspected of involvement in the case since 2009. A property dispute allegedly brought the issue to the surface.
— Irfan Haider contributed to the reporting of the story