AS national outrage grows and the Punjab government scrambles to try and limit the political damage from the serial child abuse in Kasur district, at the fore once again is the gross disparity between the powerful and the weak and the politicisation of law enforcement.
The terrible events that occurred over — and this is the truly horrifying aspect — many years in rural Punjab were neither a secret nor hard to unearth.
Know more :Accused says children abused in his presence
On July 8, this newspaper published a news report about the very shocking events in the area that had finally forced police to act after the villagers’ complaints and anger proved too much to ignore.
Headlined ‘15 booked for sex abuse, extortion’, the report noted: “The gang, according to the FIRs, had recorded videos while sodomising young boys and raping girls and extorted millions of rupees as well as gold jewellery from villagers since 2009.
Reportedly, the entire village was aware of the alleged offence but no one dared report it to police as the suspects were allegedly influential.”
Yet, the police only appeared to have acted under pressure from outraged locals in multiple villages around Hussain Khanwala who decided to protest publicly.
The July 8 report states, “On Saturday evening, hundreds of villagers from Rajiwala, Elowala, Bazeedpur, Kharapar, Choriwala, Nooriwala, Bhadian Usman, Ratnaiwala, Rangaywala, Bhagay, Jora, Nathaywala, and Mahalam gathered outside the Ganda Singh Police Station and demanded justice.
They even threatened with torching the houses of the suspects.” Then last Tuesday, protesters in Kasur clashed with the police — leaving at least 15 protesters and policemen injured — demanding that the police investigation into the child abuse allegations ordered after the July protest be completed quickly.
The background is important because it puts into context the initial denials of the Punjab government and senior police officials over the weekend. Once the scandal became national news, Punjab officialdom’s went into denial mode rather than be forthcoming about what was already known.
What should have happened? The horror in Kasur should have immediately led the Punjab government to revisit its entire law-enforcement strategy.
A sadistic criminal gang preying on hundreds of young boys and girls operating a stone’s throw from the seat of provincial power and able to intimidate entire communities into keeping quiet for years — why is that even possible?
Nationally, it should have immediately stirred the kind of soul searching and calls for reforms that are now being suggested by politicians seemingly willing to use the Kasur scandal to attack the PML-N or to improve their own standing with the public by coming down harshly on the perpetrators.
The real test though is what will happen when inevitably the news cycle moves on to the next topic. Will any of the politicians so eager to be heard from at the moment really do any of the hard work necessary to get reforms through?
Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2015