PML-N Senator Aisha Raza Farooq on Tuesday submitted an adjournment motion in the Senate Secretariat, urging the Upper House to adjourn its proceedings and take up the "urgent and very serious matter of exploitation of underage orphan girls at Darul Aman Kashana".
The motion, signed by senators of the opposition parties, referred to allegations levelled by Afshan Latif, a former superintendent at the Government’s Home for Destitute Girls (Kashana), who accused a government official of pressuring her to marry "underage girls" to fulfil the demands of some higher government officials and a provincial minister.
"This is an issue of national importance and the proceedings of the Senate must be adjourned immediately to discuss this," the motion read.
In a video that went viral on social media last week, Latif that she was being victimised by the government for revealing the truth. She further said that she was being pressurised 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.
A case pertaining to the allegations was filed in the Lahore High Court by social worker Majeedul Haq and is currently being heard.
A fact-finding committee formed by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is also probing the claims. In a statement posted on its website, HRCP said that based on the observations of its officials who visited Kashana, the "institution appears to be well run and its residents well-looked after, although this is based on the team’s observations and on the testimony of a low-income single parent whose daughter has been a resident for eight years and has benefitted from her stay".
HRCP's statement further said that the rights commission had reached out to Latif, who claimed that she had CCTV footage of "unidentified men entering the premises and residents’ bedrooms as 'prospective suitors'".
"[This is] a serious claim that warrants investigation," the commission said in its statement. The rights group also expressed its concern over the "lack of transparency" in the investigation being held by Chief Minister’s Inspection Team (CMIT), which was formed in response to Latif's allegations. According to the suspended superintendent, the CMIT "included a government functionary whom [she] had accused of 'pressuring' her to provide access to the premises; he was later removed".
"Latif says she was subsequently suspended on grounds of 'misconduct', while the Social Welfare Department claims that this occurred because she had refused to comply with a financial audit," HRCP's statement said.
Meanwhile, on Monday Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat paid what he called a surprise visit to Kashana and said that he had met the staff as well as the children but did not hear of any kind of major problems from them.
He termed Latif's allegations as "irresponsible and baseless", adding that an inquiry is being held.
This is the first time allegations of this nature have surfaced against Kashana since its establishment by the Social Welfare Department in 1973 in Lahore.