–Escort agencies targeting youngsters by promoting businesses on social media platforms
–Some businesses exclusively for elite; offer models, television hosts, actors, foreigners
–Clients get secretly recorded at times, are blackmailed later
–Universities, schools being targeted to sell banned drugs, lure needy students to business
LAHORE: Amid the civil society’s efforts to curb the taboo that is prostitution, the sex industry is thriving across the city like real estate owing to the government’s failure in controlling websites that are luring youth, especially the elite, by offering such proscribed services, Pakistan Today has learnt.
The content being posted on social media includes advertisements of banned medicines to improve sexual performance and availability of prostitutes – both male and female – whereas special networking profiles have been created to promote these businesses as well.
It has been observed that pages or accounts are followed by hundreds of thousands of youngsters, who also avail the offered services, while the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) bats no eye and boasts of its crackdown against cybercrime.
According to sources, the people involved in such businesses were mainly targeting youngsters by running sponsored ads on social media platforms.
“It has been observed that among those who interact with such explicit content over the internet, the ratio of younger netizens is way more than others. Moreover, the businesses are running in a slicker manner on Twitter than on Facebook,” they said.
They further informed Pakistan Today that social media platforms such as “Locanto” were promoting prostitution among the youth and featured ads of escort services. “Most of the hits that the website gets are by the younger generation and no agency has so far managed to deal with it.”
Pages like Lahore Escorts, Call Girls in Lahore, VIP Escorts in Pakistan, Pakistani Escort in Lahore and Door Step Call Girl, to name a few, are the most visited pages on social media, sources said.
They added that online services on WhatsApp and other video-calling applications were also available whereas those running these businesses were delivering drugs at the customers’ doorsteps as well.
“It is an entire racket that offers all kinds of illegal services.”
‘CELEBRITIES, MEDIA PERSONALITIES’:
Sources further told Pakistan Today that with access to prostitution becoming easier than ever, the business operators were charging their customers a fortune against the provision of services. “Some of the portals are exclusively for the rich and offer models, television hosts, actors and foreigners.”
“They also set certain prerequisites; such as booking a room at a 5-star hotel and confirming your stay by sending them pictures of the room. Two to three persons also accompany the prostitute to the hotels,” sources said.
Speaking of the rates being offered by the online escort services, they said that Rs40,000 was the minimum price for the night while there was no predetermined limit and it could fall anywhere between Rs200,000 to Rs300,000.
“The rates can be even more in instances where the escort is a celebrity, as his or her fee adds to the agency’s basic demand.”
Sources further said that the groups involved in these businesses also blackmailed their customers by secretly recording them at times.
“They secretly capture objectionable photos or record videos of their customers with the prostitutes and seek extortion.”
In such cases, the victim usually avoids approaching the police because of his or her own self-respect, they said.
“There has been a prominent increase in Pakistan-produced pornographic content on the web within the past year or two and such secretly-recorded videos are a major reason behind it. Hundreds of people are not even aware of the kind of videos they have been featured in,” added sources.
LURING NEW ESCORTS:
Pakistan Today was further informed that such agencies had also devised strategies to sell drugs to the students of different universities. “And they are later lured to the business as escorts.”
“Needy students are offered attractive honorariums in a bid to make them join the filthy business,” sources said and added that they later upload the students’ profiles on websites and start dealing on their behalf.
Sometimes, they also share contact information of random people who do not even have to do anything with prostitution or the escort agencies.
However, they said, the authorities concerned were proposing an action in this regard.
“They have reportedly compiled a report of people who are targeting universities and schools and providing prostitution and drugs to the students over there,” sources said, adding that no stern action had been taken so far though.
Usman Tariq, the father of a fifteen-year-old, said that parents had to keep a strict check on their children because of the prostitution and drugs advertisements flooding the internet.
“We need to guide them how not to get indulged into such activities or follow such posts on the social media; but how do we keep a check on their friends? Parents are not against social media as we too use it in a decent manner but adolescents do not understand the seriousness of the matter and its harmful effects.”
Aliya Nabeel, a teacher, while commenting on the matter said that mobile phones were a necessity in today’s world. “But with cellular phones in children’s hands, it was easier for them to access content they should not.”
She said that the duty rested with the parents and teachers to educate their children in this regard. “It is important to take measures to control this menace for it has the potential to ruin our future generation.”
FIA Deputy Director Syed Shahid Hassan told Pakistan Today that the agency was yet to implement a mechanism to monitor such activities on the social media. He added that the agency will, however, take action if they get any lead against the gangs operating these rackets on the social media.