LAHORE: “Zainab’s family will soon be left alone to suffer like us. Political figures visit just for a photo shoot. They will disappear completely and her tragic story will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of history,” says 20-year-old J*.
He was one of 20 children, who were sexually abused by a gang in Hussain Khan Wala, Kasur district in 2015. The suspects sold the videos and used them for blackmail.
At least 17 FIRs were registered against the suspects after the story hit the headlines in 2015.
After the horrific crime incident, Jabbar left his native village and started living with his friends in Nishter Colony, Lahore, out of fear of being victimised by the suspects, who were later released on bail. He had no permanent job because he had to appear before the Lahore High Court and lower court for proceedings in his cases almost every month. “No company allows its employees to go on a leave so frequently,” he added. “My relative runs a property shop and I assist him whenever I am free. I meet both ends from the money I earn from working at the shop.”
So far only two suspects, identified as Haseem Amir and Faizan Majeed, have been awarded punishment by a court in the case, while the majority of the suspects are out on bail.
“I feel intimidated by the suspects roaming free in the area. Nobody is left for our support,” says J*.
Lawyer and activist Advocate Latif Ahmed Sara and activist Mobeen Ghaznavi were very active when the scandal first surfaced. “Ghazanvi used the issue in his favour and has been elected as chairperson of union council of Hussain Khan Wala and so is the case with Sara. Later, Ghaznavi also developed differences against us. He also registered an attempt to murder FIR against him, he added. After some time, Sara also lost interest. He stopped appearing in their cases. Whenever they would try to get another lawyer engaged, he was annoyed with them, J* added.
He added that all the local and political influential personalities were also against them as they were also maligned when the case was highlighted. “The suspects, Mobeen Ghazanvi, Sara, local police and political personalities also turned against us,” he says.
To keep himself getting into any kind of trouble, J* avoided visiting his village. “I go home at night and return early in the morning.”
Some other victims also shared the same ordeal with The Express Tribune. They also left their village after the incident and moved to Lahore. WA* and R* work in a restaurant near Raiwind. T* works in a garments factory. A* and M* started working as labourers. AH* works as an office boy. M* says he and other victims have been left alone to fight their battles. J* also lashed out at political figures, media and NGOs. When the issue was hot, everyone kept visiting for photoshoots and now nobody bothers. “Zainab’s case will meet the same fate,” he says. When the issue was highlighted, flashbacks of the incident popped up in my mind,” he says. After a few days or weeks, Zainab’s family have to stand alone on the difficult path to get justice, he laments.
Talking to The Express Tribune Ghazanvi said that complainants were poor. The chief minister of Punjab had promised to provide them legal assistance, transportation to courts and security, but it he did nothing. “Instead, the police started harassing complainants.”
He said that he still stands with the complainants as he stood on the first day and appeared before courts with the complainants. “Eight complainants have reportedly reconciled with suspects and retracted their statements in favour of suspects in return for money.”
Ghaznavi said that he contested elections thinking it was the need of the hour and time proved that it was a right decision. “If I had not contested the election, he would have not in a better position to plead their case.”
Sara also denied the allegations, saying if anyone has any reservation they should contact him. He also said that those who were levelling allegations against him had reconciled with the suspects party in return for money and retracted from their statements.
He added that the chief minister of Punjab had provided the victims with a team of legal prosecutors to plead their case. “Besides, the influential political personalities of the area had intimidated and lured them to convince complainants to retract their statements.”
* Names of the victims have been changed to protect their identities.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2018.
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