KARACHI, June 26: Justice appears a long way off for the 15-year-old victim of a prostitution racket, whose father and lawyer told Dawn that most of the people they approached for help turned out to either know the accused party, or had visited the alleged brothel.
The victim’s family accuse a man named Faisal and his wife Sonia of running a prostitution den in the city with the help of some friends. Advocate Rao Mohammed Sharif, who is pursuing the case, remarked that the accused “have all the right connections and resources.”
The young girl’s father, Qurban Ali, told Dawn that he is a resident of Walton Road in Lahore, and originally from Okara. A man named Amir, who used to work in the cable networking business, introduced Qurban Ali to Faisal and Sonia, saying that they were the owners of a beauty parlour in Karachi. The couple advised him that his daughter would learn valuable skills through working in their beauty parlour, and would also earn a monthly salary of Rs5,000.
“We sent our daughter to Karachi and during her first month there, I was able to speak to her once,” said Qurban Ali. “For the next three months, we were unable to contact her since the cellphone number Faisal had given me would always be turned off.”
Advocate Sharif quoted the victim as saying that armed men would escort her to various customers’ places and in the morning, the same men would take her back to the place where she had initially been brought. According to her, about a dozen girls were lodged at Faisal’s place and they too had the same routine.
Worried about their inability to get in touch, the girl’s parents contacted Amir, who was also in Karachi. “But he told me that things were no longer in his control,” said Qurban Ali. “So we immediately left for Karachi, and we have been here six months.”
‘Nexus between police, accused’
It was mere chance that allowed Qurban Ali to be reunited with his daughter, for a customer to whom she was sent had a change of heart, said advocate Sharif. According to the victim, the man inquired about her story when he saw her crying. He arranged a call when she recollected her mother’s cellphone number, and asked Qurban Ali to come to Nagan Chowrangi, where the man dropped the girl off.
A friend referred the case to advocate Sharif, who told Dawn that he had a hard time having the FIR registered. Finally, through the intervention of the court, FIR 07/2008 was lodged at the Shah Faisal Colony police station under Sections 375, 343 and 337-A/34.
On behalf of the victim who became the complainant in the FIR, the lawyer wrote to senior police hierarchy informing them that the SHO and IO concerned were in collusion with the accused who, according to the complainant’s father, continue to run their illegal business in Shah Faisal Colony No 2.
Advocate Sharif and Qurban Ali claim that although the address of the den is mentioned in the FIR, Faisal’s wife Sonia — who is also nominated in the FIR — continues to run the business with impunity. Furthermore, claims the victim’s family, the accused threatened them and the girl repeatedly, and went to the extent of attempting to kidnap her after barging into their residence, which lies within the Sir Syed police station jurisdiction.
The accused Faisal was eventually arrested, but not in relation to the FIR 07/2008 pertaining to rape. Instead, Faisal was arrested in connection with FIR 163/2008 under Sections 365-B, 551, 452 and 506-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which was registered by the Sir Syed police station on the directives of the district and sessions judge, Central, after the SHO initially refused to register the FIR.
After the arrest, advocate Sharif applied for the transfer of the case’s investigation from the Sir Syed police station to Mehmoodabad, citing the alleged nexus between the Sir Syed police station’s SHO and IO, and the accused man, Faisal.
“The SHO of the Sir Syed police station went so far as to advise the victim not to lodge the FIR,” claimed advocate Sharif.
In the application for the transfer of the case’s investigation, Qurban Ali said that when the FIR was lodged and before, two of the accused called the complainant and threatened dire consequences unless all the applications were withdrawn.
Plea for independent investigation
The victim’s parents have been living in Karachi for the past six months and are pursuing the case with whatever few funds Qurban Ali’s son manages to send from Lahore. Assisted by their lawyer, they have gone from police stations to the offices of senior police officers, pleading for an independent investigation. However, it appears that the people accused in the crime are far too well-placed.
The station investigation officer of the Sohrab Goth police station, to whom the investigation pertaining to FIR 07/2008 was transferred, said that Faisal was arrested in the second FIR (163/2008) because he had managed to obtain bail before arrest in the earlier FIR lodged against him.
And another officer said, on the condition of anonymity, that the details recorded in the Shah Faisal Colony FIR appeared true and based on facts.
However, the SIO of the Sohrab Goth police station, Aijaz Qaimkhani, said that the case had been transferred to the Sohrab Goth police station before he was posted as SIO, and that he was not well-informed enough about it to be able to comment. He added that he met the complainants once and heard their story, but was not able to judge whether or not the case was genuine.