A man who allegedly raped a 13-year-old boy while he was in Aitkaf in Muzaffargarh has been arrested, police and the National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) said on Thursday.

Muzaffargarh police spokesperson Waseem Gopang confirmed the arrest, adding that it was made within 24 hours of lodging a case against the suspect.

The spokesperson said the suspect had initially fled but was later arrested by a police team “with the help of modern technology under the leadership of Station House Officer (SHO) Shahid Rizwan”.

“The suspect is accused of raping a minor boy who was observing Aitkaf,” Gopang stated.

The Punjab police also confirmed the arrest of the suspect from Kot Addu district. “Investigation has been initiated. The suspect will be punished according to his crime,” police said in a post on X.

In a post on Facebook, the NCRC shared a report on the case and stated: “Taking cognisance of the case, NCRC followed up with the district police office Muzaffargarh and it has been informed that the culprit has been arrested.

The commission added it would “ensure that justice prevails and the perpetrator is held accountable”.

NCRC Chairperson Ayesha Raza Farooque thanked the Punjab police for taking action. “We will do our best to ensure that justice prevails,” she said in a post on X.

The victim was observing Aitkaf at a mosque at Sanawan Bukhi Chowk when the man, who reports said was also on Aitkaf, allegedly raped him. Initially, the suspect had managed his escape while the mosque imam said the former was threatening him with dire consequences. The boy had been shifted to a hospital for a medical examination. SHO Rizwan had said the suspect would be arrested soon.

Meanwhile, the FIR — a copy of which is available with Dawn.com — was registered on the complaint of the victim’s father under section 376 (punishment for rape) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

According to the FIR, the imam called the father on his phone at around 2:30pm and said his son was crying but not saying anything. After great insistence, the child told him that when he went to the washroom, the suspect also came there and sexually assaulted, the FIR said.

It further said that the suspect “threatened to kill” the boy if he told anyone about the incident. The father added that upon contacting the suspect, he started threatening him and the witnesses as well.

Separately, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz took notice of the incident and said that the accused involved in the crime should be given exemplary punishment.

In a statement, she called for a thorough investigation into the case. She also directed to identify the culprit at the earliest and asked the police chief to submit a report on the matter.

It should be mentioned that while there was outrage on social media, politicians were notably missing from the discourse around the case.

This incident comes on the heels of similar incidents in the country in recent weeks. Last month, Kot Addu Saddar police registered a rape case against a fake diploma-holder doctor who allegedly assaulted a nine-year-old girl at Taunsa Mor.

Days before that, a seminary teacher and his wife were arrested for repeated attempts to rape a minor girl student and for torturing her in Faisalabad’s Madina Town.

An annual report by Sahil, a non-profit organisation working for the welfare of children, showed that 11 children were abused every day in 2023, with mostly acquaintances and relatives involved in the heinous act.

The ‘Cruel Numbers 2023’ report showed that children were most vulnerable to abuse in the age group of six to 15 years old, in which more cases of boys than girls were reported. Children as young as zero to five years old were also sexually abused.

The abuser’s category indicated that acquaintances were still the most involved in child sexual abuse, along with relatives, family members, strangers and women abettors.

The report showed that out of the total reported cases, 91pc had been registered with the police, which was termed a “positive sign indicating an active role” of the police in addressing the issue.

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