LAHORE: After a visit to the Kashana Welfare Centre on Monday, Punjab Minister for Social Welfare Department Raja Basharat said on Monday an inquiry was being conducted after which the facts of the case would surface.

He, however, told Dawn no sexual abuse was committed in the home for children and allegations were irresponsible and baseless, as all women and children, living in homes run by the Social Welfare Department, were safe, secure and content.

In what he termed was a surprise visit to the Kashana home in Township, he said he met the staff as well as the children and said he did not hear of any kind of major problems from them.He said governor’s wife, chief minister and other government officials have visited the home and not once were we briefed about any such happening.

Last week, a superintendent at the Government’s Home for Destitute Girls (Kashana) accused a government official of pressuring her to marry “underage girls” to fulfill the demands of some higher government officials and a provincial minister. In a video posted on social media, she claimed she was being pressurized by the Social Welfare Department director general of “misusing” the orphan girls living in the shelter homes under the guise of giving them shelter and food. The department established the Kashana in 1973 in Lahore. However it is the first time such an allegation has surfaced.

Mr Basharat who visited the place with Social Welfare Department director, Secretary Zahid Saleem and Kaneez Fatima, chairperson of Punjab Women Protection Authority, said that even if the woman was facing issues she should have gone through the proper reporting line, rather than taken to social media. Kashana in charge Samiya Ejaz was also present. Mr Basharat called security measures of the home satisfactory. He said that the former in charge was being transferred under rules but she was not ready to leave the office.

He said she had made baseless accusations against former minister and others.

He said the police was present at the centre only to make her leave the office as superintended of Kashana as she was not ready to so do. In fact she is still living in the house that is meant for superintendent which she should leave immediately as it’s a violation of rules and it should be cleared out for the new superintendent.

“The hue and cry about her facing arrest is also a lie,” he said. “How can she face arrest when there is no FIR against her?” he questioned. He mentioned that her husband Noshad Hameed was an important political person close to former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, and that this was very obvious political propaganda. “Still I have asked the staff to relay to me any issues this woman may have had,” he said. “At present though she has been suspended.”

Kaneez Fatima also told Dawn that the former in charge must clear the charges of embezzlement that she is faced with, adding that this kind of public bashing without any proof was nothing but ‘hooliganism’.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019