Police charged a cleric, who has led anti-blasphemy rallies in Pakistan, with sexually abusing a student at a madrassa. Pakistani police came into action against Aziz-ur-Rehman after videos showed the cleric forcing himself on a student went viral on social media.
The case has caused a stir in Pakistan, and outrage on social media. People are calling for strict punishment for the cleric.
Rehman denied the accusation of sexual abuse in a video statement issued on social media. He said that he was drugged before the filming of the alleged abuse. However, this claim makes no sense as he could be seen moving in the video. Rehman added this was part of a plot to throw him out of the seminary, the Jamia Manzoor-ul-Islamia.
Rehman is in his 60s and is a member of a prominent religious political part. He has also worked as a custodian of the seminary for several years.
The seminary said the cleric has been expelled from his position. Meanwhile, Wafaq-ul-Madaris, the body that oversees the religious school system, said it has stripped him off his title, mufti. The meaning of mufti is a religious scholar.
Aziz-ur-Rehman is hiding
A police spokesperson said police could not locate the cleric when they visited the seminary after the student filed the sexual abuse complaint.
The victim student appears to be in his early 20s. He said he was forced to ‘make him happy.’ In his complaint, the student added he gave several videos, and audio recordings to help police investigate. Moreover, the student had gone into hiding because he was receiving death threats.
The police said the student had told them that the cleric had been abusing him for several years. He said he started filming the abuse after he got sick of it. The student also sent the video clips of the abuse to the head of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris. It was not clear how the video clips began circulating on social media.
Pakistanis wants Rehman behind the bars
Meanwhile, Pakistanis including activists and journalists demand severe action against the so-called cleric. Rehman was molesting his student for three years then denied the video evidence and is now evading arrest.
Rehman has often been seen in photos and videos of anti-blasphemy rallies held in recent months to denounce the publication of cartoons in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Meanwhile, Lahore police said several raids were conducted in different areas of the city to arrest the cleric. “But the suspect escaped. His mobile phone was showing different locations within Lahore, but he was not present at any,” spokesperson Arif Rana told Dawn.
Over 2.2 million children attend religious seminaries in Pakistan. Sexual abuse cases are often hushed up, although some parents have recently been coming forward to file complaints. A non-government organization called Sahil that works to stop child abuse reported 2,960 cases of child sex abuse in 2020 throughout the country, not just in seminaries.
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