The civil society has reacted strongly following the child abuse scandal reported on the front page of today’s (Saturday) The Nation. Action has been demanded from the Punjab Government. Some of the renowned journalists, activists and politicians spoke to The Nation and shared their thoughts.

Colonel Wahid Khan who’s working on police reforms, says: “Child abuse is a criminal act and comes right under the Save Pakistan Act. It is another form of terrorism and should be taken to the military courts for swift action. All those who are trying to cover up the story – including the police if they are a part of the crime as they always get the share of their money – need to be punished severely.”

Marvi Sirmed a journalist, social activist and columnist for The Nation, says: “Now we have to see this event beyond vigils. We have been doing this for too long. It is our duty to work on this and pressurize the government into handling this issue seriously. Whoever is taking this up in the civil society I will be a part of it. We need to ask CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, who I trust completely, to take this case seriously. We can’t do anything without the government. The gap between the masses and the people has to be eliminated.”

“A major crackdown is needed against such criminals. There are many other centers which have existed for a long time. These survivors and victims need psychological treatment, and for that doctors and psychologists need to come forward to work voluntarily on this issue. A massive reform is needed in the Police as well to tackle such situations. It is need of the hour that parents and schools take up this issue very seriously and start awareness programs. Until and unless a child is taught how to differentiate between a good and bad touch, they will not know what ‘s happening to them.”

Mumtaz Mughal from Aurat Foundation says: “Our main issue is that there is no implementation of law owing to which people are not able to get justice. Due to a lack of trust, economic conditions and a lack of credible forensic reports people have stopped coming forward to complain. It is very common to see that when reports come out on the media, people are pressurized to take their complaints back and hush up. Even suo motu actions are of no good. Apart from awareness campaigns we need to reform our education system.”

Tilwat Hussain from Pehchan NGO says: “The police stopped the people who tried to protest. Pakistan has signed the treaty of Convention Right of Child under pressure but they have not been able to make a policy as their focus is elsewhere. Basically the police do not want the issue to be highlighted because then they would have to work on it.”

“Apart from the government and law providers our people also do not pay attention to this issue, since it’s considered a myth. They laugh it away. People do not realize the serious consequences of the heinous crime. We need to launch an awareness campaign, which involves people from all sectors of the society. We need socio-psychologists to take this event seriously and help those kids to come out of the trauma. The civil society and media need to keep raising their voice on this issue so that proper action is taken.”

Waqt News screen grab

Journalist Munizae Jahangir says: “It is a horrible incident and Punjab Government, which claims to be the most progressive government under NAP, has failed to protect its children. It is Punjab government’s duty to provide assistance to the victims to help them get over the trauma. It is criminal negligence on the government’s part. Infrastructure cannot be built on the behest of our children. We already have laws in the country but they have to be implemented. There is no point in making more laws until and unless there is no implementation.”

Human rights activist Farzana Bari says: “Strict action should be taken against the culprits who have destroyed the lives of those kids. A set time should be marked for such cases where children and women are abused. If this is not done, no one will be given justice. Today, all of a sudden, people are worried that Pakistan’s name is being tarnished owing to this child abuse scandal; but why are we forgetting what those children and families have gone through?”

“If the state does not get its writ implemented, such crimes will flourish, and justice will not be delivered. The government and law enforcing agencies have to play their role, but we as civil society need to take it up as well. FIA and Foreign Office need to get involved in this case and approach other countries to counter those groups. We have to handle this case domestically and internationally.”

PTI’s Ejaz Chaudary says: “We were informed a month ago and held a small protest in Lahore after which the police registered a case. Later, another case was registered, but the police despite being aware of the heinous crime were not taking any action. We already have the law in place but the reason for not reporting the crime is lack of justice and lack of confidence in the system. We are ready to support Farzana Bari and will work at all cost to get these people justice.”

DPO Kasur Rai Bahadur was interviewed on Waqt News: “None of the six culprits are roaming free; we have recovered videos and phones from the culprits. All of them are being interrogated. We are vigorously working on this case and have approached the people of Kasur. We have asked them if there are more victims; they should come forward. We will help them to our upmost capacity. Apart from criminal issues it is a social issue also.”

Waqt News screen grab

“Videos don’t depict more than 8 to 9 victims, so the figure of over 200 people being victimized is incorrect. But if there are more victims, they should come forward with evidence we will take all actions against it. The culprits they are with us in custody and they will be taken to court and will be punished according to law.”

“We have not taken any action against any protestor even though the protestors were very violent and our policemen have been injured. We have not found any international linkages. In all the available videos some of the victims are identifiable but others aren’t. We have to see this as a societal issue as well, which involves parents, media, NGOs, and clergymen. The Police will work with all NGOs to eliminate this issue. Until now there is no political interference in the issue.”

Social Media has reacted strongly to the scandal as well.