Police in eastern Pakistan have arrested seven men accused of sexually abusing children and distributing videos of the abuse, in what campaigners are describing as the biggest-ever child abuse case in the country.
Investigators were sifting through evidence, including 18 or 19 videos seized so far, said Kasur district regional police chief Shahzad Sultan.
It was not yet known how many children were abused or if there were other videos, police officials say.
Police were investigating claims the suspects were blackmailing the victims’ families, demanding money in exchange for not making the videos public. Copies of the abuse videos were allegedly sold in local markets.
Punjabi provincial home minister Shuja Khanzada said authorities were rigorously investigating the men in custody and that about 10 other suspects would be arrested soon.
The story gained momentum Sunday as Pakistani media publicized a variety of sordid allegations over the case, which police declined to discuss.
The case became public after victims’ families clashed with police last Tuesday, accusing authorities of ignoring their complaints.
Child Protection Bureau chief Saba Sadiq has demanded a high-level judicial probe, while provincial chief minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered investigators to make all the facts public.
Most of the victims were under 14, including a six-year-old boy.
In one case, a 10-year-old schoolgirl was filmed being molested by a 14-year-old boy.
Videos of these assaults were filmed and thousands of copies are believed to have been sold in a village in the Punjab’s Kasur district.
One of the victims said he was injected in the spine with a drug before he was assaulted, according to reports.
Pakistan experienced a similar tragedy in the late 1990s, when 100 children were sexually abused and murdered in Lahore by Javed Iqbal Mughal, a serial killer.