More arrested over Pakistan child abuse scandal

  • 11/08/2015
Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan have accused police of failing to do enough (AAP)
Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan have accused police of failing to do enough (AAP)

Pakistani police have arrested five more people over a major child sex abuse scandal.

At least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of 25 men who used the hundreds of videos they produced to blackmail the youngsters' parents, according to Latif Ahmed Sara, a lawyer and activist representing the victims.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province where the abuse took place, has ordered an independent judicial inquiry and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed action against those responsible.

Police on Monday arrested five more suspects, taking the total in custody over the allegations to 12.

The case has provoked expressions of outrage in Pakistani newspapers, several of which have suggested a politically influenced cover up.

The village at the heart of the scandal, Hussain Khanwala, lies in the Punjab stronghold of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party.

Sara accused the police of dragging their feet - some of the videos date back to 2007.

"The police are protecting the criminals, they are supporting them and have provided them an opportunity to escape the village," Sara told reporters.

The head of Punjab's Child Protection Bureau, Saba Sadiq, described the case as "the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan's history".

But an initial police probe carried out last week described the allegations as "baseless", a conclusion immediately rejected by local media and rights activists.

District police chief Rai Baber Saeed told AFP that officers were doing their best to catch those responsible, but insisted there were no more than 30 victims and accused activists and media of exaggerating.

Mumtaz Hussain from Sahil, Pakistan's leading campaign group working against child abuse, said there were more than 3500 registered cases last year, but that the true figure was far higher - perhaps as many as 10,000.

"Very few are reported because the victims and families are shy to disclose the sexual offence against them because of cultural, social and religious barriers," he said.