LAHORE/KASUR – Punjab’s Child Protection Bureau has disclosed country’s largest child pornography ring, in which 400 videos have been confiscated featuring more than 280 children being sexually exploited.
According to the police report, the organised child sex exploitation, which has shocked the nation. According to the report, most of the victims were under 14 years of age. In one of the videos, a six-year-old boy can be seen forced to perform a sexual act and a 10-year-old schoolgirl who was filmed being molested by a 14-year-old boy.
Thousands of copies of the sexual assault videos are believed to have been sold for Rs. 50 each in Hussain Khanwala village in Kasur district. According to the parents of the children, the gang members were in contact with pedophiles in western countries through Skype and would sell the videos overseas for large amounts of money.
According to the parents, the gang would later blackmail the children and the parents using the videos, extorting millions of rupees from the poor villagers under the threat of shaming the families of the victims. The poor villagers, afraid of losing face in front of their community, would sell personal belongings to pay the gang.
One mother said she had to sell her gold ornaments to pay Rs 600,000 to the blackmailers to erase the videos of her 14-year-old son. “Everyone in this village is a victim. Our children both boys and girls are raped and blackmailed,” said another victim’s mother.
The family of a ten-year-old girl forced to perform a sex act in her school uniform said they had paid a million rupees to their blackmailers but they had not erased the video.
“I was just nine years old when I was abducted and taken to a deserted house. I was brutally tortured when I offered resistance. Then they administered a spinal injection. I was raped multiple times by several men at gunpoint. I decided not to tell anybody. Six months later, the accused showed me the video clips when I refused to perform sexual acts on camera again. It was horrible,” said another boy who was raped by the gang in 2006.
So far only six alleged abusers have been arrested, five of whom have been remanded in custody but according to parents of the victims, the abuse was orchestrated by a gang of up to 25 young men and teenagers led by two men in their 40s. It is being alleged that the leaders of the gang are being protected by the influential people of the area, namely, the MPA and the DPO Kasur.
It is astounding that this crime was being committed on such a large scale and nobody took notice. According to reports, the DPO and the MPA concerned were trying to cover up the whole scandal, often threatening the parents of the victims. Saba Sadiq, head of Punjab’s Child Protection Bureau busted the ring and called it ‘the largest-ever child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history’.
Update: According to Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, as reported on Samaa and Geo News, no child abuse took place and this is just a case of a land dispute where one party is trying to pressurize the other using child abuse allegations as a threat. However, when we sent our reporter to the concerned village, he verified The Nation’s original story and stated that the gang was operating on a much larger scale than being reported in the media currently. He said that at least 3 villages are being abused by this gang and a countless number of children have been raped and filmed.
Update 2: According to our reporter, Shoaib Bhatti, the 3 villages namely Hussain Khanwala, Bagga, and Rohi Nala were under the control of a large child-porn gang that exported their content abroad. They barely sold their content in Pakistan. The whole scheme was being financed by two primary sources: extortion money from the victims and their families, and sales to foreigners over social media and Skype who would pay large amounts to sometimes watch these rapes live. Sales in local area were limited because it did not yield great profits. It is estimated that from extortion alone, they have earned Rupees 80 million.
Our reporter was also able to procure a CD containing at least 280 clips of these barbaric acts from an ordinary villager.
While the police claim that only 6-7 clips have surfaced, villagers claim that over 300 such photos have been provided to the police.
For some of these children this abuse started at the ages of 8 – 9, these traumatized kids grew up being raped for years. Sometimes they even joined their captors in finding and abusing new victims, however, all these kids were under the age of consent and the leaders of the gang were two 40-year-old men. 2 of alleged ringleaders are government servants working for the High Court’s office and were connected to influential people.
According to the reporter, 2 years ago the gang had kidnapped and raped a minor girl from the village’s Girls High School. From that, the gang started victimizing more girls from the same school and sometimes would film inside the school. One day the principal of the school witnessed a filming accidentally and called the police. A few days later the gang fired on the principal’s car and the principal barely escaped death. After that incident, the principal resigned and left the village, and since that day the Girls High School has no principal.
In a shameless act of victim blaming, some media outlets namely Samaa and Geo, have perpetuated the outrageous suggestion that all victims shown in the clips were consenting and willing participants of the sex acts.
Samaa’s reporting of the Kasur child pornography ring case is a disgrace. And they are congratulating themselves over it! Nauseating
— Talat Aslam (@titojourno) August 8, 2015
I’ve seen the videos. There are 100s in our possession, shared by victims families. Believe me, is no land dispute. https://t.co/1EA5j7gpja
— Rameeza Majid Nizami (@RameezaNizami) August 8, 2015
— Hafsa Khawaja (@Hafsa_Khawaja) August 8, 2015
The broadcast media blatantly showed the images of victims, which has received criticism from civil society. Many on social media condemned the reporting of these outlets about such a sensitive issue, some even called for PEMRA to intervene.