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Acquitted schoolteacher goes missing

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A schoolteacher in Khairpur, Pakistan, who had been acquitted of charges of sexually abusing a child, has gone missing, according to his family. Sarang Sher was cleared of the charges on April 29 by the Court of Additional District and Sessions Judge-IV, Khairpur, after DNA reports of the teacher and the child did not match. However, Sher’s family says that police in plain clothes took him into custody, and they fear for his safety. There is no official record of Sher’s arrest, according to his son, while the Senior Superintendent of Police Khairpur Raheel Khoso said he was not aware of the detention.

The case against Sher began two years ago when a video allegedly showing him sexually assaulting a student went viral on social media. Police subsequently registered three cases against Sher, including clauses related to terrorism, but these were later removed by an anti-terrorism court, which transferred the case to a district and session judge. Despite the acquittal, the Sindh government has instructed the province’s prosecutor general to file an appeal.

The case highlights ongoing concerns about child sexual abuse in Pakistan. According to the organization Sahil, which campaigns against child abuse, there were over 3,000 cases of child abuse reported in Pakistan in 2020. However, many cases are not reported or prosecuted, and the actual number of incidents is likely to be much higher.

One reason for the low reporting rate is that victims and their families often face pressure from their communities to remain silent. Furthermore, the police and judiciary are often accused of being biased toward the accused, while many victims lack access to legal support or psychological counseling.

The case also raises concerns about the use of anti-terrorism laws in cases of child abuse. Such laws were introduced in Pakistan in 1997 to combat terrorism, but have been used in a wide range of cases since then, including those related to blasphemy, murder, and kidnapping. Critics argue that their broad scope allows the authorities to arrest and detain people without due process or evidence, while also creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

The disappearance of Sarang Sher highlights the need for greater protection for victims of child abuse in Pakistan, as well as reforms to the country’s legal system to ensure that cases are properly investigated and prosecuted. In particular, there is a need for better training for police and judicial officers, as well as greater access to legal support and psychological counseling for victims and their families. At the same time, there is a need for a more nuanced approach to the use of anti-terrorism laws, to ensure that they are not misused or abused for political or personal gain

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