In the past month, there has been a sudden rise in the abduction of children in Pakistan. Although, this has been a concern for decades but little or nothing has been done for children that are trafficked to places in Russia and the Middle East. Sometimes children are trafficked from one location to another within Pakistan itself. Once the children are successfully kidnapped and trafficked, they are forced into labour, sexually exploited, used in the drug trade or become a part of the most lucrative business known to many as begging. Also on occasions, kidnappers use children for their organs and sell it in the black market world over.
Unfortunately, Punjab has been hit hard by the kidnappings from rural to urban areas. On July 21, six children went missing from Lahore. However, the Punjab Government did manage to rescue some children in early August, but 100s were still kidnapped in recent days.
According to official reports by July this year, 767 children have already gone missing. However, 722 of them have been recovered or returned to their homes. Though, there is no account of the remaining 45 missing children. Police records state that a majority of children returned to their homes on their own because they were never abducted. Instead, they ran away due to harsh treatment from their parents at home.
In 2015 and 2016 around 1,901 children went missing. Out of them, 1,815 were recovered while 86 are still missing to date. Surprisingly 1,532 children returned home by themselves. And at least 795 children left their home due to their parents’ harsh behaviour. This trend has continued over the years that has put a lot of children in danger. While 138 fled due to family disputes, 111 were taken away by one of the parents, 93 were recovered during attempted kidnapping at the spot and 83 ran away due to maltreatment at schools and madrassahs. Also, 74 were taken away by their relatives, 51 were involved in beggary and bonded labour, 42 were abducted for sexual abuse and 29 of them were special children.
The police record further states that the missing children were recovered shrines, railway stations, public parks, bus/wagon stands and from hideouts in the cities and villages. Currently, at least 67 of the missing children are staying at the offices of Child Protection and Welfare Bureau in different districts. This includes 105 in Lahore, 16 in Gujranwala, 13 in Rawalpindi, nine in Faisalabad, 18 in Multan, four in Sialkot and two in Bahawalpur.
To tackle this issue, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an important meeting of the law and order committee in the province. Also, Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) has launched the website ‘Missing Children Recovery’ to reunite the lost children with their families across the province.