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Calls for justice after child abuse scandal shocks Pakistan.

August 15, 2015 · 

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August 10, 2015

The chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province has ordered a judicial inquiry into the country’s biggest-ever child sex-abuse scandal as political leaders, rights activists and faith leaders called for swift action.

Dozens and possibly hundreds of children were discovered to have been harassed, molested, raped and filmed by an organized gang over the course of years.

The ringleader, along with seven others, was remanded in police custody. But violence broke out Aug. 6 when an estimated 1,000 people in Hussain Khan Wala village, near Lahore, clashed with police after several suspects were granted bail.

Rai Babar Saeed, a senior police officer, told reporters that police arrested eight suspects, including the ringleader, Jaisam Aamir, alias Haji.

“Some other suspects have got bail from court and police are actively opposing this,” he said.

“We have so far received seven complaints and recovered dozens of videos showing the molested children,” he said. Saeed said that all child abuse incidents happened over a period of seven years starting in 2008.

Saeed said 30 children were found to have been abused, though activists and locals maintain the figure is closer to 300.

On Aug. 9, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered a judicial inquiry into the scandal.

“The chief minister has directed the Home Department of Punjab to immediately request the Lahore High Court chief justice to constitute an inquiry commission headed by a district and sessions judge for this purpose,” his office said in a statement.

“Stern punishment will be meted out to people involved in these crimes,” Sharif said.

All those involved deserved no leniency, he added.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed serious concern about the case and called for authorities to take stern action against all those involved.

Meanwhile, Fr Cecil Paul of Our Lady of Sorrow Church in Punjab’s Kasur district strongly condemned the abuse.

“We express deep sympathy with the affected families and pray for the quick rehabilitation of their children,” Fr Cecil Paul said.

“This is a most horrific and shameful case, in which so many innocent lives have been ruined,” he said.

“One fails to understand how this was able to go on for years with police failing to act,” he said, calling for an impartial and thorough investigation.

Cecil Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church’s human rights body in Pakistan, also expressed shock at the scale of the scandal.

“There is no word to deplore this horrific crime, but we as a society are to blame,” he said.

“If the need arises, our aid groups like Caritas will help the families of the victims and provide counseling to traumatized children,” he added.

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