1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Incidents
  4. Crime

More arrests in Pakistan child sex abuse scandal

More arrests in Pakistan child sex abuse scandal More arrests in Pakistan child sex abuse scandal

Pakistani police arrested five more people Monday over a major child sex abuse scandal after a lawyer for the victims accused them of protecting culprits, while activists said the case was just the tip of the iceberg, AFP reports.

At least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of 25 men who used the hundreds of videos they produced to blackmail the youngsters' parents, according to Latif Ahmed Sara, a lawyer and activist representing the victims.

The case has provoked expressions of outrage in Pakistani newspapers, several of which have suggested a politically-influenced cover up.

The village at the heart of the scandal, Hussain Khanwala, lies in the Punjab stronghold of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party.

Sara accused the police of dragging their feet, as some of the videos date back to 2007.

"The police are protecting the criminals, they are supporting them and have provided them an opportunity to escape the village," the lawyer told reporters.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province where the abuse took place, has ordered an independent judicial inquiry and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed stern action against those responsible.

On Monday Pakistan's upper and lower houses of parliament passed unanimous resolutions condemning the abuse and demanding exemplary punishment for the culprits.

The Lahore High Court, however, declined the chief minister's request, saying police should continue their investigation.

"The judicial inquiry is required where facts are hidden, in this case police are already investigating and some of the accused have already been arrested," court spokesman Arif Javed told AFP.

The total number of suspects in custody stands at 12 following Monday's arrests.

An initial police probe, carried out last week at the behest of the provincial government, described the allegations as "baseless", a conclusion immediately rejected by local media and rights activists.

The head of Punjab's Child Protection Bureau, Saba Sadiq, described the case as "the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan's history".

    Honour, shame 

The abusers allegedly tried to extort money from parents of victims, selling clips of the videos locally for 40 Pakistan rupees each (around 40 US cents) if they did not pay up.

"They made the video of my son in 2011 and we have been paying the blackmailers since then," the mother of one of the victims told an AFP reporter. 

District police chief Rai Baber Saeed told AFP that officers were doing their best to catch those responsible, but insisted there were no more than 30 victims and accused activists and media of exaggerating.

"Police have 30 video clips of the scandal involving 15 people. Seven of them have been arrested while four or five are on pre-arrest bail and the rest are absconders," he told AFP before the latest arrests.

He described the case as an old one, dragged up recently by a group of villagers as a tactic in a dispute over the sale of some land.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the property dispute did not detract from the horror of the abuse and demanded a thorough and impartial investigation, voicing doubts over the judicial commission ordered by the Punjab chief minister.

Activists working to fight child sex abuse in Pakistan said the problem was widespread but difficult to quantify because victims were often unwilling to speak out.

The concept of family "honour" is very important in Pakistani society and many people would be afraid of the "shame" it would bring to admit being the victim of a sexual assault.

Mumtaz Hussain from Sahil, Pakistan's leading campaign group working against child abuse, told AFP there were more than 3,500 registered cases last year -- representing nearly 10 children a day being abused.

But he said the true figure was far higher, perhaps as many as 10,000.

"Very few are reported because the victims and families are shy to disclose the sexual offence against them because of cultural, social and religious barriers," he said.

Sex is a taboo subject in deeply conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan. Rights activist Samar Minallah said the unwillingness to discuss it was making it easier for abuse to happen.

"It is important to break the silence and challenge the taboo around it," Minallah told AFP.

"How can a child be safe if he knows that his parents, the culture and societal norms expect him to remain silent to uphold the family's 'honour'?"


Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights