Friday 6 December 2019
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The News - 4 days ago

Kashana affairs appear scandalous, but govt denies

Please give the girls in safe hands. The people overlooking the orphanage are not sincere. Children have been mentally tortured and their institute s sanctity has been destroyed, pleads former superintendent of Kashana, home for destitute girls, being run by the Social Welfare Department. I was asked not just to marry off underage orphan girls on their directions, I was asked to set up their rooms in the orphanage where the girls would stay, said Afshan Latif, superintendent of Kashana shelter, which is a state institute for the welfare of orphan girls, while talking to The News.Men are not allowed into this facility which is meant solely for girls and women. What did they mean by setting up rooms on the premises where men would go is something we all understand. Horrifying as it is, dirty designs of those who had authority, now stand exposed.The ex-superintendent released a video on Friday that went viral, alleging that some members of the chief minister s inspection team (CMIT) were pressurising her to marry off girls from the orphanage to their nominated men.The CMIT has submitted an investigation report to the CM. Former minister Social Welfare Ajmal Cheema, who was charged with putting pressure through his men, was removed from the ministry on July 19, 2019. Then he was transferred to the CMIT as its chairman. Last Saturday, on Nov 29, he was even removed from that post. Dr Pervez Ahmed Khan is now the new chairman CMIT.There are 57 girls living here and they are studying in a school. The correspondent wanted to meet the resident girls at Kashana, whose gate was open when she went there. But the moment they found there were people from the media who wanted to meet the girls, the wooden doors were shut, the iron grills were drawn and the guard put a lock on the grill. If the authorities were right, why would they prevent the media from meeting the girls? Why have they changed all the staff at Kashana? The first thing that comes to mind is that they had removed all the staff at the Kashana because they could tell what had been happening there earlier. It was the first day of the new superintendent Saima when the correspondent went to the orphanage on Saturday. The security guards were also new. A new sweeper had also arrived there, for which Afshan had been pleading with the department for more than three months.Afshan first submitted a written complaint to the CM, CJ and PM on July 12, 2019. A member of the CMIT is putting pressure on me to do this. On Aug 16, Afshan was suspended and never restored. On Friday, Nov 29, her video spread like jungle fire on the social media. In that video, she said she was being arrested for speaking against harassment and violation of security of the orphans under her care. The girls were all scared, wailing, crying in that video while the superintendent was giving news of her arrest, which showed they had great fear of an uncertain future awaiting them.She was taken to Township police station with her husband and asked to withdraw her allegations. She would not compromise on the safety of the children she was entrusted with. A brave woman, one must say and also quite intelligent to make videos and upload them. In the age of social media, one can reach out to the world from the confines of four walls. At times, this is the only means to reach out to the world, as happened in Afshan Latif s case. The member conducted the first enquiry against me. His interference was great. He even went to the rooms of children and met them. He sat on my chair and threatened me of getting me transferred to some far-flung area, she went on to tell her ordeal. She again wrote a letter on Aug 8. Tahir Khursheed, who was investigating the allegations, has also been removed, added Afshan Latif. Secretary Social Welfare Ambreen Raza did not respond to repeated calls and sms for her version on Kashana fiasco. The CMIT has conducted an investigation into the allegations and the report has been submitted to the chief minister, contents of which are not known yet.Earlier, few days back, Minister for Social Welfare Raja Basharat had said in a statement, issued to the media: The lady was transferred from Kashana but she did not want to leave the charge. Transfers are common in service. We will resolve the issue, and she has made it a point of ego .After the video went viral, the minister said, The issue at Kashana Lahore exists from a time when I had not taken charge as the minister, but we have solved the issue amicably. Then he said, We have taken the charge from the previous in-charge and she will be deputed somewhere else. Another thing he said was, There is no truth in what is said in the video about the institution. Destitute women and girls residing here are safe and living in a clean environment. The Department of Social Welfare is providing living, food and education to them free of cost. Raja Basharat was travelling from Pindi to Lahore when The News contacted him Saturday night. He said once he sees the investigation report on Kashana, he will be able to talk about it.


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