By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: On September 1, Mubarak Ali returned to his village to spend weekend with the family.
His son, a 9th class student, was sitting silent in a corner with a dejected face. On seeing his father, he broke into tears.“I have experienced the worst of my life,” the son said and started crying. He was molested by a local influential the same day and his abuse was filmed. This was the second time in three days that his son had gone through the ordeal. The cost of speaking up was fraught with danger, as the accused was son of a local influential and a serial abuser with more than dozen victims in two villages alone: Chak 6/1L and Chak 18/1L situated near RenalaKhurd, tehsil headquarters of Okara district.
Challenging the accused was a gigantic task for Mubarak. He is a driver in a Manga Mandi factory near Lahore. Providing good education to his children so that they have a life better than him remains his only dream. He was outraged at this despicable incident. More so, because this was not the first incident. The pattern is reminiscent of Kasur child abuse scandal that had shaken the nation. Incidentally, the ring leaders at Kasur and Okara not only share the caste, their families have migrated from the same place in India (Ferozepur). Unconfirmed reports also suggest linkage between both the gangs.
In majority of the cases, the parents of victims have been submitted into silence. Others who decided to proceed against the accused were failed by the system or circumstances. Another child was molested by the same accused and his video was made viral. Only then, his parents came to know. The video haunted him wherever he would go. Friends and foes would point the finger at him. A complaint registered with the FIA’s Cybercrime Wing went unnoticed. The situation culminated at his quitting the school. He was studying in 10th class in the same school his father teaches. For months to come, he remained confined to home. His passion for sports died as he couldn’t face people. His parents consoled him but in vain. It took him a year to recover a bit. Now, he sits at the shop that his elder brother runs but no more studies or sports.
His father told The News about his plan of shifting to a nearby city to pull his child out of trauma. Right now, he is trying to sell his house. The playgrounds and school canteens are the favorite hunting spot of the accused, Asadullah, who is an employee of Wapda where he is a meter reader. His father is the chairman of union council thus well-connected with MPAs and MNAs of the area. The elder brother of the accused, a policeman, also faces sodomy allegations. A few years ago, he molested a student. His family’s efforts to seek police help didn’t yield result. He was the son of a mason. The victim had to quit studies; his family shifted him to relatives before he was sent to the UAE for labor. In majority of cases, the matter was hushed up by exerting pressure on the families of victims facing stigma and trauma alike. Others who decided to take the legal course were checkmated as medical examination of the victims were manipulated through influencing the hospital administration. That victims informed parents days after the incident when it was too late to undergo medical checkup turned out yet another reason for not pursuing the matter.
In the case of Mubarak’s son, the incident had occurred the day he came to know. He approached the RenalaKhurd Police for registering the FIR. They were reluctant in the beginning. Mubarak threatened that he would set himself on fire before the police station if the complaint was not registered. A lawyer also pressured the police and finally the FIR was registered and the accused was arrested. The medical report also testified molestation. As the matter went to the local court, the accused party engaged an influential lawyer. The proceedings started and Mubarak had to appear almost every second day. He would travel from his workplace (Manga Mandi) to RenalaKhurd to ensure his presence. Meanwhile, the evidence was sent to the forensic laboratory in Lahore.
Mubarak has only guarded optimism in the system but he is determined to fight. In addition to pursuing courts and police, he has to ward off local pressure demanding withdrawal of the case. In return, he is being offered financial compensation which he refused to accept. “I will fight till death,” he resolved. Somebody will have to stand up to save the children,” he said. Asked how his victim son is, he said: “He remains silent as if a lost soul; sometimes starts crying. He doesn’t go to playground anymore.”
Courtesy The News