Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday vowed to fully prosecute those found guilty in a child sex abuse scandal that has shocked the Muslim-majority nation.
Police arrested half a dozen suspects and confiscated 30 pornographic videos in an eastern Pakistan village near the border with India, Rai Babar Saeed, a police officer in Kasur district, said by phone. Seven families have filed police complaints, he said.
“The accused should be given the harshest punishment and no leniency should be shown toward them,” Sharif’s office said in a text message.
Sharif is facing pressure to show he’s tough on crime as his opponents look for any opportunity to discredit his two-year-old administration. Imran Khan, an opposition leader who led street protests against the government last year, said he’d pursue the issue in parliament.
“We strongly condemn these horrific acts of child abuse and police complicity,” Khan wrote on Twitter.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province and Nawaz’s brother, ordered an inquiry on Sunday after The Nation newspaper reported that more than 280 children were abused over the past decade. Police haven’t found evidence yet to suggest that many were involved, Saeed said.
“This will bring a negative perception to the government,” Rashid Ahmed Khan, professor of international relations at University of Sargodha in Punjab province, said of the scandal.
Nawaz Sharif has faced street demonstrations and constant terrorist attacks from Islamic militants seeking to overthrow his government. Even so, the benchmark Karachi Stock Exchange 100 Index has gained almost 30 percent over the past year as he takes steps to spur economic growth.
More than 3,500 cases of sexual abuse were reported in Pakistan in 2014, a 17 percent increase over the previous year, according to Sahil, an organization that works with UNICEF for child protection in Pakistan.