By Aamir Latif
The media and locals initially took it lightly when police clashed with protesters in a small town not far from Lahore in Pakistan's northeast over the abuse of a child last week.
A protester was killed and others were injured but the clash was just a sign of a coming child abuse scandal that has shocked Pakistan.
The small town of Hussein Khan, near the Indian border, has seen more than 200 children abused according to locals.
“This mess had been ongoing here for the last six years, under the nose of the police,” Mobeen Ahmed, a local social worker, told reporters.
According to him, the local gang patronized by some political figures had abused over 200 children, making videos of the abuse to blackmail parents into making regular payments to stop the videos being released.
So far seven people have been arrested on the basis of a video of a child being raped in a classroom, in which all of their faces could be seen.
In an interview aired by local Dunya TV, the victim's father said he had to sell his wife’s jewelry to pay the gang, who had threatened to post the video of his child’s rape on the internet.
“I had to pay them 1.2 million rupees ($12,000) over the last two years to save my child’s honor,” the father claimed. “I am not the only one. There are hundreds of fathers and mothers who had to do the same to protect their and their children’s honor.”
Villagers have accused the police of ignoring the issue after, they claimed, they repeatedly brought it up with the authorities over the past six years.
“The police, including the city police chief, have received a hefty amount from the accused and the politicians behind them, to spoil the case," claimed the father interviewed by Dunya TV.
Local journalist Raja Riaz told Anadolu Agency he has repeatedly reported on the scandal in the past but it has been the leaking of some of the abuse videos that has attracted national attention.
“There could be a dispute over the numbers of incidents but it is true that this has been happening for the last few years,” Riaz said.
The police denied the allegations, saying they have been carrying out raids and seizing the videos.
District police chief Rai Babar Saeed claimed that the scandal was really centered around a hostile land dispute and that the numbers of children abused had been inflated.
Locals however, called Saeed's comments a "total lie."
"We have had no land dispute with these gangsters. The police are trying to cover up their negligence and corruption. Some of the victims might have the dispute but how can hundreds of families be involved in that dispute," local villager Ghulam Hussein told reporters.
“Enough is enough. We had kept quiet because of shame and fear but the brazen deeds of these animals have forced us to rise against them,” he said.