LAHORE  - In this country, where Taliban militants have waged guerilla war against the government for enforcement of their Sharia, 28-year-old Nazia, clad in full-face veil, reaches in front of Jinnah Garden everyday in the evening.

Minutes after she gets off an auto-rickshaw and stands on the road, motorcyclists and car-riders rush to her for bargaining. She picks up a client of her own choice and leaves the place to serve sex at the place of her customer’s choice.

The pick and drop is the responsibility of her client. The mother of two, Nazia (not her real name), says she had no other source of income to feed her kids.

“I eloped with my boyfriend and tied the knot with him when I was 18-year-old. I’ve been divorced five years ago and my family disowns my kids. I am living my life with the kids,” says the woman. I have told my children that I am doing a job in the night-shift at a factory.

“I am not interested to know whether it is a right thing or a bad work, but it helps me collect easy money to feed the children… a few hours job for a few thousands rupees” she said.

Inflation has taken the tolls on ‘sex workers’ as roads are seen thronged by them around the city.

Prostitution in Pakistan is a taboo that exists like an open secret considered as immoral. Many prostitutes operate underground in the country.

Many political economists acknowledge poverty coupled with high-inflation as a crucial factory in driving women towards prostitution.

Sajjad Hussain, who teaches business administration classes at a private university, has different opinion. “We have seen some persons are quite able to accomplish necessities under limited income but they indulge in bad activities for the sake of luxuries,” the 55-year-old commerce teacher believes.

Police investigators say there are some women who also work as prostitutes for the sake of fun since they were found addicted to drugs. “Since they cannot drink alcohol and are unable to smoke chars at their residential places, they prefer to extramarital sex. In such a company, they are not only provided free drugs and alcohol but they also earn extra money,” said police investigator, Iqbal, who preferred only his first name to be quoted.  There are many places all over the provincial metropolis where hundreds of likes of Nazia are doing the job of sex workers. Apart from brothel business, prostitution thrives in Lahore as call-girls are available on the roads round-the-clock.

Razia Bibi, a 25-year-old married woman works in the day in the posh Johar Town locality. She is the mother a baby-boy. Disguised as a passenger, she waits for her clients at the crossings and bus stops. She makes an eye-contact with her client, mostly single man traveling in a car, and gestures him with her left finger. She claims her husband is unable to provide her luxuries like latest model mobile phones, dining in a foreign food outlet once in a week, and of course an offer to go on long-drive at least once in a month.  According to a survey conducted by this reporter, many places in Lahore virtually have become ‘hotspots’ where prostitutes are available to do the job of sex workers.

Mozang crossing at Ferozepur Road, Jinnah Garden, main boulevard Iqbal Town, Liberty Market roundabout, Canal Road (new campus), Multan Chungi, Jail Road (in front of services hospital), Ferozepur Road (in front of Lahore General Hospital), Data Darbar, Saidpur bus stop at Multan Road, Defense (Y-Block) market, Texali Chowk, Lorry Adda, and Shahdara More are a few living examples in Lahore.

Police in the Punjab province are part of the problem since they are interested in extracting money under duress from the prostitutes’ clients rather than taking action against the banned activity. Prostitutes blame police for harassing their clients, apart from being abused themselves by the police.

Last year, two policemen stopped an auto-rickshaw at a picket in Nishtar Colony area for routine checking after midnight. They kidnapped the prostitute and took her to an apartment, where was repeatedly raped.

Cities like Karachi and Lahore are major base where call-girls operate underground. A recent study indicated that major cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan have large population of sex workers. Many sex workers in these cities operate from hotels or homes and other private facilities.

Medical experts say that most of the prostitutes are vulnerable to deadly diseases like Hepatitis and AIDS as they cannot force clients to take preventive measures.  “Prostitutes who operate in low-income neighbourhood are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases. They have to serve their clients under unhygienic conditions.

The lack of awareness regarding use of contraceptive methods also put at stake the lives of both the male and female,” says Dr Muhammad Naveed, a surgeon at a public hospital in Lahore.

Many of the prostitutes operating in the posh localities are educated and belonged to middle-class. Some of them have to bear the educational expenses of their brothers and sisters while the others have to generate sufficient money for reasonable dowry before their wedding is fixed in well-to-do families.