By Syed Shayan Mustafa Jaffar
Call it neglect or incompetence or sheer ignorance of the authorities, the recent unearthing of what is the largest ever child abuse scandal in Pakistan’s history owing to severe protests by the suffering families further exposes the utter failure of institutions in the country and shines a light as bright as ever on the dents and gaping holes in the overall institutional framework of the country. Hussain Khan Wala village in the Kasur district of Punjab which neighbors the provincial capital Lahore is the eye of the storm. Therefore to the outside eye, it really does beg the question whether the legislature itself and its statutory institutions turned a blind eye toward the whole debacle. How does something this horrific which is happening right under their nose go on for years without them noticing even once? How do we make a case for Pakistan being a safe country when it can’t even protect its own children whether they’re being slaughtered in Peshawar or being robbed of their childhood in Kasur. The answer to whether Pakistan has failed its children is glaring right at us.
Lets look at a few numbers which are closely associated with the incident:
270, the number of children who are reported to have been subjected to sexual abuse
400, the number of videos showing abuse which have been discovered so far
6, the number of years that the children of Hussain Khan Wala village have had to live in horror before federal agencies finally decided to intervene
21, the number of alleged perpetrators involved in the fiasco
When analyzed, averaged and summed up, these numbers add up to a solid 0 because that is the degree of competence the authorities have shown in dealing with the matter to date. These numbers are all different in size and proportion but failure of the authorities is what they all point towards.
Now that the injury part has been covered, we can look closely at the insults to the physical and mental injuries that the victims have had to suffer. Video tapes of the children were used by the perpetrators as a means of extortion from the families of the children. Both money and favors were extorted from the long suffering families. That was just the beginning of the insults to the injuries of the children. Prominent members of the Punjab government have repeatedly made statements expressing denial regarding the incident in a feeble attempt at saving face with no regard for the children who have been mentally de-faced for life. The perpetrators of the incident are now in custody and the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has reiterated that they shall be brought to justice. 6 years too late?
The incident as a whole is a massive insult to the injury that is the state of child welfare in the country. Pakistan as a developing country is adversely ranked when it comes to UNICEF’s indicators for child health, protection and nutrition and its problems are indeed deep rooted. As of March 2015, The Global Slavery Index (GSI) ranked Pakistan as third among countries where slavery including child labor is most prevalent. It is also ranked amongst the top 10 in the countries with the highest number of child labor violations in 2014. Pakistan has been no stranger to child abuse scandals on a large scale. It was during the late 90’s that 100 children were raped, tortured and murdered by serial killer Javed Iqbal Mughal in Lahore. The failure then and today is shared by all institutions of state and there is only hope that the perpetrators will now indeed be brought to justice after all these years. Even that is little compensation for the trauma that the children and their families have had to go through.
_ (The Telegraph)