By Arshad Dogar & Khalid Khattak
LAHORE: An analysis of police records since 2017 shows that on average three cases of rape or sodomy with children under 10 years of age have been reported on a daily basis in Pakistan’s Punjab province with murder of one child every month.
During this period 2,841 cases of child sexual abuse have been registered with Punjab Police across 36 districts of the province and 10 regions under its administrative control. Besides this, the total number of murders was reported as 40.
The analysis also shows that in terms of overall child sexual abuse cases Gujranwala region recorded the most 519 case while Sheikhupura region (which includes Kasur district) recorded most of the murders i.e., 10 since 2017.
The official data shows that at least 13 girls under the age of 10 were killed after rape in Punjab in 2017 while 9 boys were murdered the same year after sodomy. The next year a total of 14 children lost their lives including seven-year old Zainab in Kasur district of Punjab in early 2018.
Since January this year four children have been killed in child sexual abuse cases in Punjab–the largest province of the country in terms of population.
The analysis of data shows that all these years Gujranwala region with 519 rape and sodomy cases left other regions behind. Gujranwala followed by Lahore region with 388 cases, Sheikhupura 371, Dera Ghazi Khan 338, Bahawalpur 294, Faisalabad 252, Multan 244, Sahiwal 187, Rawalpindi 129 and Sargodha 119 cases.The district Kasur was in the limelight in early 2018 after rape and murder of seven-year old Zainab. The violent protests forced the government to come into action using all available resources to solve the mystery surrounding the murder of the innocent girl after rape. With the help of CCTV footage and DNA matching the police was able to nab the killer who was executed the same year. It is considered one of the swift cases Punjab Police solved in many years.
Of the total murders of children vis-à-vis child sexual abuse cases since 2017, Sheikhupura region which includes Kasur district recorded most of the murders i.e., 10 followed by Lahore 7, Gujranwala 6, Faisalabad 5, Sargodha 4, Multan 3, Sahiwal 2, Bahawalpur 2 and Rawalpindi 1.
In terms of percentage of total murders visavis total incident Sargodha region is on the top with three percent murders of the incidents of child abuse taking place in the region. Similarly, though Gujranwala region is on the top with maximum number of incidents is at the bottom in terms of percentage of murders i.e., one percent.
In 2017 Gujranwala region, comprising six districts, there were at least 242 incidents of rape and sodomy were reported including one murder of a male child.
Out of six districts of Gujranwala region, Gujranwala district topped with 105 cases of rape and sodomy against children, followed by Sialkot with 58 incidents, Hafizabad 28, Mandi Bahauddin 21 incidents while Gujrat and Narowal recorded 15 incidents each.
Similarly in 2018 again Gujranwala region recorded maximum, 221, cases of rape and sodomy with minors including murder of two boys.
In this region Gujranwala district topped the other remaining districts with 97 incident and it was followed by Sialkot with 44 incidents, Hafizabad 23, Narowal 22, Gujrat 21 and Mandi Bahauddin 14.
In the first four months of the current year till April 10, Gujranwala region has topped the other regions with 56 cases, followed by Sheikhupura with 41 incidents, Bahawalpur 40, Faisalabad 36, Multan and Dera Ghazi Khan 32 each.
Only Dera Ghazi Khan region which comprises Dera Ghazi Khan district, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Rajanpur did not record a single murder during these years though the number of child abuse cases registered in the district was 338.
Regional Police Officer (RPO) Gujranwala Tariq Abbas Qureshi admitted that his region topped the other police regions in the reporting of child abuse cases. He said this heinous crime was still underreported due to certain factors including settling down the issue at home.
Tariq Abbas Qureshi also said he had been focusing on the proper investigation of the cases in his region to increase conviction rate. To elaborate he said collection of DNA and other forensic evidences was compulsory for investigating officers who had also been imparted training for evidence collection.
To a question about the establishment of separate investigation cells for child abuse cases like homicide cell and gender cell, Qureshi said though currently there was no separate unit for it, he has specifically given SOPs to all district police officers of his region and to CPO Gujranwala for resolving such cases on priority basis. According to him a dedicated helpline, 8440, has also been launched in his region so that victims especially women and parents of victim children could directly report the crime at his office.Poor supervision of parents is one of the major factors of child abuse while quick police response can also help avoiding incidents of child sexual abuse. The police department has not conducted any research or study to investigate the increasing ratio of this crime. RPO Gujranwala
DIG Investigations Lahore Dr Inam Waheed said it was observed that around 90 percent of the complainants withdrew cases under social pressure. “As most of the complainants belong to low strata of the society, they easily come under the pressure of notables of the area and forgive the accused person,” he added.
“However, once a case is highlighted, the accused person could not escape proper prosecution and execution,” he said while stressing the role of media for constant follow-ups of the investigations so the rapist could not escape justice.
Main image credit: Dhaka Tribune