The scandal that shocked Pakistan: kids raped, filmed and blackmailed
- Around 400 porn videos recovered
- Over 280 children under 14 years of age sexually exploited
- Victims forced to abuse each other
- Cases of children being injected in their spines with unknown substances
Buyers and sellers
- Thousands of copies of videos already sold for 50 rupees each
- The gang responsible also extorted money from victim\'s families
- Videos have found an international market amongst pedophiles
- Reports say the child abuse and filming began way back in 2009
A large child pornography racket has been busted in the town of Kasur, very near Pakistan's border with India. The sordid details of the racket has shocked Pakistani society.
About 400 pornographic videos have been recovered, which show more than 280 children, mostly under 14, being sexually exploited. In one clip, a six-year-old boy is portrayed performing a sexual act, while another shows the molestation of a 10-year-old girl in her school uniform by a 14-year-old.
In some of the clips, victims are forced to abuse other victims. It is apparent from the videos that they were shot in village fields, bathrooms, and deserted houses.
"This is the biggest ever child abuse scandal in the country," said Saba Sadiq, head of the Child Protection Bureau.
Thousands of copies of the videos have already been sold, at 50 rupees each. According to the parents of some of the victims, the gang also sold the videos to pedophiles abroad for large sums of money. The villagers said that the gang also extorted millions by blackmailing the victims' families. Apparently, many families were forced to sell their valuables to meet the blackmailers' demands.
This has been going on since 2009.
"Our children were threatened and asked to name more children. We kept quiet because of the constant fear they instilled in us," a villager said.
Din Muhammad (name changed), a victim's father, said "My son told me he was injected with something in his back (spine), and was taken away to a deserted field. He was molested by five or six men and a video of the entire act was made."
Most of the abusers were in their teens but were reportedly backed by two men in their 40s, say police sources. The villagers accuse the police of protecting the criminals. But the police claim they could not take any action because no complainant came forward.
The police response
"We cannot raid without any complaints," says Rai Babar Saeed, District Police Officer (DPO) of Kasur,.
"I would also like to clarify that the number of victims being floated around, is based on hearsay. There were about 25 to 30 victims. The period of abuse, in some cases, was about seven years. Most of the victims were boys 10 to 14 years of age," he said
The DPO further added that the incidents took place from 2009 to 2013, but the complainants came forward only now.
"Only seven families have filed complaints. But if there are others, we invite them to come and tell us. The police will take strict action."
He said that six of the 11 main accused were arrested and under police remand.
In many videos, children are forced to abuse children. Thousands of videos have been sold, at 50 rupees each
The villagers also accuse the police of remaining silent because of political pressure. However, even they didn't say anything for three years, perhaps out of fear for their lives and also their reputations.
Investigators say that some people gathered courage only after certain parties with their own vested political interests backed them and urged them to file complaints. The police also assert that many individuals were being named only because the powerful people backing the villagers wanted them out of the way.
If DPO Babar is to be believed, there is another twist to the tale. According to him, one of the reasons why the issue was suddenly resurrected, was a dispute over 19 acres of land.
"I am not denying that the incidents took place. It is a very serious crime. However only seven videos are authentic while 50 to 60 clips have been downloaded from the internet," he said.
He attributes it to an old feud between Master Zafar and Sheerazi groups at Hussainwala village in Kasur district. Five members of the Sheerazi group are under arrest while one was out on bail. The case could be the Master Zafar group's ploy to put pressure on their rivals in order to grab the land.
What experts say
According to child rights' activist Iftikhar Mubarik, many such cases must be getting brushed under the carpet. "Obviously the incidents happened over a span of two or three years. But the fact that no one from the local administration or the police took notice, speaks volumes about what is happening," he said.
Criminologist Dr Fateh Burfat believes that gangs like these continue to operate with impunity because they have powerful backers.
"The disturbing reality is that there is a global market for such videos. As the market expands, such rackets become more and more entrenched," he said.
"Child pornography and forced abuse has devastating physical, social and psychological effects on children. How can a society turn away from its most vulnerable section?" Burfat asked.