child
Op-ed

Organized crime of child abduction

Prof Waheed Uz Zaman Tariq

Children are the most vulnerable members of the society. They have no say in decision making, voting, as witnesses and cannot fight their case. They are psychosocially and physically yet to develop fully and cannot fight back a person or group, which incurs a kind of harm; physical, psychological, monetary or social. They are dependent upon the parents and time left at the mercy of environments, in which case the state may be responsible for their welfare. In poverty-stricken sectors, they have to work and earn livelihood for their family and at times lazy, greedy and destitute parents. More children for a father are guarantee for the comfort of their father, who wants to have as many male offspring as possible, so that he may take a rest for rest of his life. The child labour for a family means extra earning, to pay back the debt of the previous generations. The children are caught up in a vicious cycle and lose their innocence. At work, they come across the people, who may abuse them physically or otherwise. It means that they lose a chance for education, development of self-respect, physical and mental protection as well as a career planning. They may fall prey to diseases and trauma.

The children were abducted by Kharkar (donkey owners), who kept them at labour camps and abused them like slaves, where they were beaten and forced to work for long hours, while living in miserable conditions. They were kept in remote areas, sometimes even across the borders and remained on move. That phenomenon was commonly observed in the days of Ayyub Khan. Some of them escaped the camps and came back to find no one of their own or did not have an address of the place, from where they were once abducted. In 1970s, Shaikha Bashir Ahmad was a political activist and was called as Bachay Chuk (child abductor). The reason was that he has made an NGO for the recovery of abducted children. He used to help the parents in the recovery of lost children. When a child was found, he received from the parents. His own people were found kidnapping the children, and brought together, in the center. They were kept and produced to the parents, who came there in search of their lost children. That is how he got that fame.
In the south Punjab, the children was sold by their own parent three decades ago, where they were taken to the Gulf States, and worked there as camel jockeys. There they were tied on the back of a camel. As the camel ran the child cried and the beast ran faster. Many of them lost their lives. Then, the world became conscious of that practice, which was stopped. When such children were brought back to Pakistan, there were many tales, which were associated to their plight. Most of them could not be reunited with their parents and relatives. Most of them had been sold by their parents. When that market of camel jockeys was no more, other alternatives were explored, by child trade mafia. There is some evidence available that the children from that area were sold to the terrorist organisations, where those children were indoctrinated to become suicidal bombers.

The Pakistan Education Statistic 2015-16 launched by the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS) – a subsidiary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training has revealed that 44 per cent children between the ages of five and sixteen (22.6 million) are still out of school. The condition of existing schools in the public sectors was deplorable. Forty per cent of its primary schools had no electricity, 28 per cent were without toilets, one fourth of them had no boundary walls and 29 per cent had no access to drinking water. The abductors remove the organs from healthy people and transplant them to the desperate and needy people from home and abroad, at places where operative and post-operative surgical services are in shambles. Sometimes, the organs are removed from kidnapped children or at times they are paid a small fraction of money which they receive form the recipient of their organs.

Then we have rackets of child sex abuse. Still, we do not know its real extent, as we are told to not talk on so-called issues of immorality in public. Whether, they are part of international child pornographic mafia or otherwise, remain to be proven. However, such recorded videos are available outside the country. There are psychopaths and serial rapists, involved in these heinous crimes. Some of them are blackmailers and thugs. Reports are there about Kasur’s sex abuse gangs but we do not know about the geographical extent of the problem and its gravity. It happens all over the country. We are asked to keep quiet about sex related issues, as these are linked to shame and family honour. As a Consultant for National AIDS Control Programme and In Charge of UNAIDS programme foe Troops, in Pakistan I had often felt difficulty in talking about the realities, complications and complexities of irresponsible acts of sex, on social grounds, which is nothing to do with religion. Denial and censorship is liked, on so called moralistic grounds. Hypocrisy prevails and demands us to shut our mouth about sex related problems. We cannot analyse the situation and gather sufficient data, to know the real seriousness of the problem.

Without proper analysis of the situation and going to background our social menace, we ask for punitive actions in public. Nothing less than public an execution is being demanded, as deterrence. The psychologists oppose public executions, on a plea that it may aggravate public behaviours of ruthlessness. No remedial or preventive measures are suggested. The criminals need exemplary punishments, according to the law. They should be identified, conformed and dealt by the courts, without any external influence. The society needs a review of the situation. We have to make proper arrangements of schooling for all children, ban to child labour, protection of children by the society, prevention of all possibilities of child abduction. Parental awareness and keeping an eye on the activities of people around us, is seriously needed. As I have highlighted time and again, corrupt system of governance and policing, lack of facilities for welfare and education and self-imposed censorship are our main enemies. We have to bring all stakeholders on one page. Teachers, religious clerics, political activist, philanthropists and media need to work together, in a systematically way, to bring back the moral and social norms and save the children, from predators by all meas. That is how we may protect our future generations, from decay, loss and humiliation. A vigilance, periodical review of the situation, apprehension of culprits, enforcement of law and public awareness are the factors, which cannot be dispensed with.