GANDA SINGH WALA - A team of Waqt News, a sister organisation of The Nation, unearthed a video centre where the abusive CDs are prepared and distributed. Locals told the team that Ittefaq Digital Photo Studio is owned by one of the eight culprits who are now in police custody.

Three salesmen present at the shop fled as the media team arrived there; however, one of them later met the team and told them off-camera that he and the other two men only worked for the culprit who owns and runs this studio and sales point.

They said videos were bought in several shifts, then compiled together to make CDs at the behest of the shop owner, also one of the perpetrators. He said the renter of the shop was a poor man, he was not involved in the scandal. But due to the availability of computers at the shop, they were made to copy CDs of children being abused from mobile phones, and then compose the footage into a saleable form.

The child sex scandal that has enveloped the small village of Ganda Singh Wala has been condemned far and wide and according to a late night news report, the prime minister has taken notice of the situation.

With social disgrace commonly held as a reason to avoid reporting cases, many families are fearful of speaking out, but nevertheless some are set to approach the police today.

“Another 50 victims are ready to speak out against the abominable acts,” Muhammad Sultan told The Nation yesterday. “We will visit the Ganda Singh Wala police station Monday morning along with the victims to file complaints against the criminals,” said Sultan, who lives in Hussain Khan Wala village of Kasur district, where a gang had been abusing innocent children for years.

“Even if the police refused to register the cases, the victims will at least bring the matter on police record,” he added. Some other villagers said they have collectively decided that only victim boys will be brought to the scene as they don’t want their girls to suffer anymore.

Police is already working on seven cases of child abuse and has arrested eight accused. Investigators say the accused have confessed to committing sexual assault on children, making videos, and blackmailing their families.

The new applications were readied on the day the Punjab chief minister directed for requesting Lahore High Court’s chief justice to look into the allegations.

Some relatives of the victims are asking for the matter to be handled by Pakistan Army.

Their fears are rooted in the experience of the on-ground situation in the area, where police and civil administration mostly protect and collude with the powerful, denying justice to the common man.

Efforts are also being made by some sections of administration and media to undermine the child abuse issue by clubbing it with a land dispute. When this question was put to some villagers they said: Land disputes in the area are not a new thing but mingling such issues with the real problem in a way that it helps the case of culprits is highly unfortunate.

There are three mosques in the village Hussain Khan Wala where the prayer leaders believe the number of victims is higher than being reported in the media. An Imam of the local mosque told The Nation Monday afternoon, “Hundreds of children are victims in this scandal.”

“I believe the number of victims is more than 300. We have been protesting over this criminality for past several months but the police did not take any action,” said the 60-year-old prayer leader. Police even arrested him for making announcements on the issue. “They broke my arm,” the old man wearing a traditional turban said.

Requesting anonymity, a prayer leader in the area told The Nation that most of the victims do not trust police. The villagers have unanimously decided not to bring out the girls because the stigma will haunt them whole of their life.

“This is the reason that there is no girl among the complainants so far,” he explained. There are videos of young girls being molested by the gang but they would not join police investigations, he added.

According to the clerics, announcements were made at the local mosque after Friday prayers and the victims were encouraged to speak out against the shameful incidents as the villagers gathered at the school ground last week.

Hundreds of villagers gathered in the Hussain Khan Wala on Monday as local media crews and journalists working for foreign media outlets reached the locality to report the developments.

A villager said that he himself had seen as many as 250 video clips. “At least 75 such videos are in my possession.” he added. Another villager said that there should be exemplary punishment to the culprits.

Chaudhry Farooq, a resident of a nearby village said almost every family is a victim in Hussain Khan Wala village. He said the victims are in hundreds and many of them are still unwilling to report the crimes to the police because of the disgrace and stigma attached. “Victims are reluctant to approach the police. They don’t trust police,” he said.

The Punjab CM was due to visit Kasur on Sunday but he did get security clearance. For the first time since the incidents are reported in the media, a PML-N politician MNA Sheikh Waseem reached the Hussain Khan Wala village Sunday night. He met the victims and their families and assured them of justice.

On this occasion, some locals strongly rejected provincial minister Rana Sanaullah’s claim that a land dispute was behind the child sex abuse scandal.

“The minister did not bother to visit the village and he has been issuing statements on the police reports,” said Maulana Khalid Javed Kasuri. He said there was no land dispute in this case and the authorities are trying to twist the story to divert public attention.

Ameer Jamat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmood-ur-Rashid also visited the village on Sunday and assured the victims that they would raise their voice at every forum to help them get justice. They strongly condemned the abhorrent incidents and demanded the government provide justice to the victims instead of underrating it.