A 70-year-old Pakistani Muslim cleric has been indicted for sexually abusing a student at a religious school after cellphone videos purporting to show the cleric forcing himself on the student went viral on social media.
The case against JUI(F)’s Mufti Azizur Rahman was registered under Section 377 (unnatural offences) and Section 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code. According to the first information report (FIR), the victim got admission to Jamia Manzoorul Islamia in 2013.
The Lahore police on 17 June pressed charges against Azizur Rahman, who denied the accusation after the student filed a complaint of sexual abuse, saying, during the exams, Mufti Rahman had accused him and another student of cheating by getting someone else to sit for the exams. “Over this, I was banned from giving exams at the Wafaqul Madaris for three years,” he said in the complaint. He said that he pleaded to Mufti Rahman, but the latter was unmoved. But Mufti Rahman said that he might be able to think of something if I engaged in sexual activities and “make him happy”, the victim said, adding that he had no choice but to be subjected to sexual assault.
“Mufti Rahman claimed that the ban would be removed and that he would also pass me in the exams. But despite a passage of three years, during which I was assaulted every Friday, he did nothing and started to blackmail me more,” the victim said.
The victim said he had complained to the madrassah‘s administration but they refused to believe him as Mufti Rahman was an “elder and a pious man” and instead accused him of giving a false statement.
The victim said this was when he began recording the abuse and showed it to Wafaqul Madaris al Arabia Nazim.
“After this Mufti Rahman started threatening me with dire consequences as well as my life,” he said. He said because of audio and video recordings, the administration of the Jamia Manzoorul Islamia removed Mufti Rahman which angered the cleric. He added that he was now being threatened by Mufti Rahman and his sons and asked for action to be taken against them.
The disturbing video, which surfaced a couple of days ago, stirred up a storm among the Pakistani users of social media as citizens called for action to be taken against the JUI(F) leader.
The videos went viral late on 15 June, triggering outrage on social media, with many calling for the Pakistani cleric’s punishment. It was not clear how the video clips began circulating on social media.
Rahman said in a video statement he was drugged before the filming of the alleged abuse, and that it was part of a conspiracy to have him expelled from the Jamia Manzoor-ul-Islamia seminary in Lahore.
The Pakistani madrassah removed the cleric from his position earlier this month after people from the neighbourhood showed its administration videos of the alleged sexual assault.
“On the basis of their complaint, and after consulting with the administration, you have been relieved of your duties,” the letter issued by the seminary to Rahman said.
A police spokesperson said officers could not locate the cleric when they visited the seminary after the student filed his complaint.
The student, who is said to be in his 20s, said in the complaint he had given several videos and audio recordings to help police investigate, and that he had received death threats from Rahman.
Pakistani police said the student had told them that the cleric had been abusing him for several years.
There are around 25,000 registered religious seminaries across Pakistan and almost the same number are said to be unregistered. Around 200,000 students are estimated to graduate from these seminaries every year.