Accused says children abused in his presence

Published August 10, 2015
People gather on Sunday after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced a judicial probe into the child abuse scandal.—M. Arif/White Star
People gather on Sunday after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced a judicial probe into the child abuse scandal.—M. Arif/White Star

KASUR: There was no confession in the serial child abuse case in Kasur’s Husain Khanwala village but the principal accused gave a strange twist to the happenings by saying that he used to be present when the crimes were committed and filmed in a classroom of the academy where he and those captured in the clips studied.

Media reports suggested that the accused had confessed to their crime, but Kasur’s DPO Rai Baber Saeed told Dawn that no confession had been made. He said police were investigating the matter and would submit a report to the court.

Also read :Kasur child abuse scandal: Shahbaz orders judicial probe

The only development he reported was the arrest of another accused, Usman. Six others, including the principal accused, Haseem Amir, were arrested on Thursday.

The DPO said there were nearly 15 accused in the seven FIRs registered. Police are conducting raids to arrest another two accused while the remaining were on bail.

This reporter met the accused in Kasur’s Police Station B Division where they are being kept instead of the Ganda Singhwal Police Station for security reasons. Six of them are in their early 20s and the seventh, Abdul Mannan, says he is 14 years old.

They all said they were innocent. The principal accused, Haseem, 25, said he was innocent because none of the films seized by police showed him indulging in any abuse. When asked whether he used to film the child abuse, he said he would sit in the classroom where his classmates would commit the crime.

He claimed that he and others had been implicated in the case because some people wanted to grab 16.50 acres of land his family had purchased.

Others did not come up with any such reason. Ali Majid said the one Mubin who had raised the issue allegedly to grab the land had abused him and wanted his father to stop cultivating fodder there.

The villagers, victims and their relatives who said they had kept quiet because of fear and shame were now openly talking about what they called the brazen deeds of the accused. There was no more fear of the accused or shame as they were readily giving details of the events.

There were no police in the village, but plainclothesmen were there to keep an eye on the mood of the villagers.

The fear was no more there because of one Mubin Ghaznavi, reportedly a former Jamaat-i-Islami worker who continued to urge the victims and their families to stick to their allegations. Two lawyers – Latif Sohra from Lahore and Chaudhry Munir – were also seen in the village and were reportedly supporting the victims.

Some people, including Lambardar Saifullah, alleged that the JI man and the two lawyers were after the 16.50 acres of irrigated land which the family of the principal accused known as Karmoo group had purchased. But they could not satisfy many as to how one could ask people to say that they had been sodomised for settling the score.

Punjab chief minister orders judicial probe

The allegation was that Mobin wanted some NGOs to build a school and other facilities for villagers on the land and lawyer Chaudhry Munir was with him.

Mubin and the two lawyers denied that they were supporting the villagers. Mubin said the accused were his relatives and he was angry because they had also abused children of their own family. Latif Sohra claimed that the victims had visited them in Lahore for legal help and he engaged his friend Chaudhry Munir for assistance.

“Look at the abused youngsters. Can one make them confess to an act which will haunt them all their lives,” Mubin said.

He said police and those supporting the accused were levelling such allegations to confuse the issue. The government should impartially look into the matter, he added.

The Karmoo group, it is alleged, had the backing of people mostly in government departments and courts.

Mubin said he had nearly 150 clips of the child abuse. Young girls were also assaulted, “but we are not sharing their clips to save their families from ignominy. Police have much more but they are trying to marginalise the issue,” he claimed. He said the father, brothers and uncles of the principal accused also used to abuse children.

Haseem claimed in the lockup that police had one clip showing the rape of a girl. But he said the victims were also abusing each other.

Women and their young relatives felt no hesitation in telling their side of the story. One Amna said his brother Abdul Mannan had been kidnapped at gunpoint by Haseem when he was seven. He was taken to Haseem’s haveli, intoxicated and abused by him and others. The scene was filmed for blackmailing. “We have given them a total of Rs800,000 on different occasions.”

Danish Ali, 18, a student of Lahore’s National College of Arts, said he had been picked when he was nine. He repeated the allegations and said the accused used to extort money from him till recently by threatening to release the clips. He would also be forced to abuse children picked by Haseem in the meantime.

And as the villagers, including women and the victims, were sticking to their claims, none of them could quote even a single incident in which a victim was found injured or sick after the criminal assault by more than one man.

“We were silenced. I was hurt but I would not tell anyone for fear of my life and safety of my family. They also used to make me entice more children for abuse,” one of them said.

And there was a story to tell how the alleged racket was exposed. According to the villagers, Haseem gave his mobile phone to a cousin while playing volleyball and the cousin who knew about the crime stole his memory card. Clips from the memory card went around in the village and to those who dared seek justice, they said.

They said the RPO had come to Ganda Singhwala a month ago and constituted an investigation team under the SP investigation but it never completed its report. Had it been done, the matter would not have been agitated with so much force, they said.

According to them, 400 to 500 children were abused.

Our Correspondent Afzal Ansari in Kasur adds: Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered on Sunday a judicial inquiry into the matter.

He was to visit the village on Sunday morning, but cancelled the trip, reportedly because of security reasons. The chief minister wanted the bereaved families and the victims to come to Kasur city, but they refused.

Sunday was the day for political leaders to express solidarity with the victims and families. However, no MPA or MNA visited the village.

JI EMIR’S VISIT: Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq said the incident was the worst example of terrorism and barbarism and urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take sue motto notice.

He also demanded a judicial commission on the matter and called for speedy trial of the accused.

He said that in view of the severity of the case, sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act should be included in the FIRs. He said a case registered against the villagers after a clash with police a few days age should be immediately withdrawn.

The JI chief said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should have visited Kasur to express sympathy with the victims’ families.

PTI leader Mahmoodur Rasheed also visited the village and demanded a speedy trial of the case and exemplary punishment for the accused. He accused police of protecting the accused.

Jahan Arra, daughter of PPP leader Manzoor Watto, met the victims’ families and assured them that the matter would be raised at every platform.

A team of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which visited the village, said the child abuse case should be referred to a military court. Led by retired Maj Saeed and Nurullah Siddiqui, it said Punjab should be handed over to Rangers because the provincial government and its police had failed to protect life and honour of the people.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2015

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