Illustration by Rohail Safdar
Illustration by Rohail Safdar

Adnan’s naughty smile does not immediately give away the trauma he has endured. Wearing a dark grey kurta that sits loosely around him, the lean 11-year-old boy is perched on a chair at the decrepit office of a local peace committee in Mingora, Swat. A psychologist there is trying to assess the impact his ordeal has had on him.

The psychologist places a sheet of paper on the table and asks Adnan to draw on it. He sketches two matchstick figures: a policeman escorting a handcuffed man. Adnan names the handcuffed man as Aurangzeb, who held the boy captive for 13 days and repeatedly subjected him to sexual abuse and physical torture. Adnan now wants retribution: “He should be stoned to death,” he says.

Adnan went missing on February 19, 2016, from Mingora’s Green Chowk, where he had gone to buy medicine for his mother. “I felt hungry, so I went to a tikka shop on a narrow street. The shopkeeper left his seat to fetch something from the storeroom when, suddenly, two men put a mask over my head and bundled me into a car,” says Adnan. He fell unconscious soon afterwards.

When he came to his senses, Adnan found himself in a room, tied to a bicycle, with his mouth taped. His abductors were later identified as Sajjad and Aurangzeb — the latter a 50-year-old unmarried businessman who is known as ‘Rangay’. Little is known about Sajjad. “Both repeatedly abused me, nearly everyday,” says Adnan. They beat him when he asked them to let him go home and Aurangzeb gave him a sleeping pill or two every day. “I missed my mother terribly during those days,” he says.

Also read: The unbearable lightness of abuse by Feryal Ali Gauhar

Adnan’s father, Tajur Rahman, searched for his son as far as Mardan and Swabi. A couple of weeks after Adnan had disappeared, one of Rahman’s close relatives, Nawab, came to see him and said that Sajjad might have some information about the boy. “I went to the police station and told the officials there that Sajjad may be helpful in tracing Adnan,” Rahman tells the Herald.

Sajjad was then brought to the police station where, after he was subjected to traditional investigation techniques, he confessed that Adnan was in captivity at Aurangzeb’s house in Naway Kalay, on the north-western outskirts of Mingora. As the police started getting ready to raid the place, someone alerted Aurangzeb about it.

Adnan says he heard Aurangzeb talking to someone on his cell phone about the raid. The boy was able to hear the name of the person on the other side of the line because the phone was put on a speaker somehow. He was Hamid Iqbal, a local policeman.

Aurangzeb put a half-conscious Adnan in a sack after putting tape on his mouth. He left the boy on the side of a road in Barikot, about 18 kilometres south-west from Mingora. As Adnan was slowly regaining consciousness, army men posted nearby noticed something moving in a sack. “About five soldiers had their guns trained at me when I was being taken out of the sack,” he says.

He told the army men about his abduction and they arranged for his journey to Mingora in a bus. By the time Adnan reached Mingora, he was so weak that he collapsed as soon as he stepped down from the bus. Incidentally, Nawab happened to be close by. He spotted Adnan and took him to his family.

Obaid, a 15-year-old boy who was also from Mingora, was already a captive at Aurangzeb’s house when Adnan was brought there. Obaid says he was kidnapped on March 19, 2014. That day, he was helping his father sell sweets and chewing gum at the bus stand because the government school where he was studying was closed due to spring break. At around 12:30 pm, he was returning home when two armed men shoved him into a shop. They threatened him into silence. In the evening, they covered his head with a mask, taped his mouth and shifted him to a house in Sangota, a village about eight kilometres to the north of Mingora.

In January 2015, Obaid was shifted to Aurangzeb’s residence in Naway Kalay. It was from there that he was finally recovered by the police on May 6 this year. Had Adnan not told his father about Obaid, he could have been in captivity even now.

Obaid was so scared after his rescue that he initially told the police that Aurangzeb was his father. It was only later that he gave the cell phone number of his real father to the police officials who contacted him and handed over his son to him.

Obaid says he was not only sexually abused by Aurangzeb, but also by Nawab who, according to Obaid, provided food to the captive children.

Aurangzeb was arrested on April 10, 2016, from his house. A day later, Shireenzada, a resident of Khwazakhela, said he had hundreds of photographs and dozens of video clips that showed Aurangzeb abusing at least 17 different children. He gave all the material to local journalists who then gave it to the police officer investigating the case.

Shireenzada tells the Herald that the data he has shared with journalists is the tip of the iceberg. “I have shared just two gigabytes of the total data which is eight times as much,” he says and claims to have obtained it from one of Aurangzeb’s facilitators.

In one clip, Aurangzeb is seen asking a child lewd questions. The child appears to be around 13-years-old. Another boy of around the same age swears on camera that he will never betray Aurangzeb and expects the same from him.

Both Adnan and Obaid have stopped going to school. They believe Aurangzeb has a strong network all over the district of Swat and could harm them again. For now, Adnan works at a vehicle upholstery shop while Obaid mostly stays home. “I miss my school friends and teachers, but I will resume my studies once all the members of Aurangzeb’s gang are arrested,” says Adnan. Obaid fears he will be kidnapped again if he goes to school.

Their fears were intensified by reports that Aurangzeb received preferential treatment from the police, possibly because of his money and political connections. He managed to have the original investigation officer, Amanullah, transferred somewhere else and the second investigation officer never put him in the lock-up, says Rahman. “I visited the police station after Amanullah’s transfer and found Aurangzeb sitting in the office of the new investigation officer,” Rahman adds. A police official confirms to the Herald that Aurangzeb was never put behind bars.

Relatives of Aurangzeb along with some notables of his clan are even trying to persuade Rahman to drop the case in exchange for money. “They are offering me 2.2 million rupees,” he says. Whether he accepts the offer or not, nothing can ameliorate his son’s torment.

Names have been changed to protect the identities of the victims.

This was originally published in the Herald's June 2016 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.

The writer is a reporter at the Herald from Peshawar.