PAKISTAN: Innocence lost with no respite for children from abuse

Javeria Younes

Words fail to express the grief when the victim of a heinous crime is a child who has been a victim of parental greed. Children, who are the future of a nation, form the vulnerable faction of society; children are most prone to being beaten, sexually exploited, forced into bonded labor, and murdered in Pakistan.

Recently on 18th August 2016 a man from Gujrat, Punjab Province, reportedly drowned his four-year-old daughter, to seek compensation from the government and pay off his loan. According to media reports, Shahbaz, the heartless father, was to drop his daughter Sabiha to school, but he instead took her to the canal near Randheer Village, Gujrat District, and threw her into deep water. After killing Sabiha, Shahbaz lodged a complaint with the Police Station Kakrali. Suspecting wrongdoing, the police grilled the father, who later confessed to killing his daughter so that he could get 0.5 million Rupees in compensation with which he had hoped to begin paying off a 0.7 million loan.

It is indeed alarming to note that children of Pakistan are no longer safe even with their parents. every day the media reports harrowing incidents of infanticide and of parents selling off their children to pay off loans. The economic meltdown has compelled many parents to sell their underage children or force them into prostitution.

According to the Annual Report on State of Children 2015 by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the total number of child sexual abuse cases stood at 3,768 in 2015; most of the cases were reported from Punjab; approximately 10 cases of child sexual abuse occur every day. The numbers, however, barely scratch the surface as thousands more go unreported.

The mass hysteria that has engulfed the entire nation has many opportunists seeking to monetize the situation. Many poor families suffering from the economic meltdown and rising inflation have been caught in the web of debt and are thus forced to sell off their children. Many children are forced to labour under inhuman conditions at brick kilns, carpet industries, or other hazardous places.

On August 16, a couple was arrested for selling their infant daughter to a gang for Rupees 94,000 in Pabbi, Nowshera District, Punjab Province. The gang was going to sell her for Rupees 0.3 million to another buyer, who was also arrested. The couple reportedly have five other daughters. When the sixth daughter was born, the father decided to sell her so they could make some money.

The State, despite its constitutional obligation to safeguard the rights of the child, does nothing to protect them. It is incumbent upon the State, being the guardian of its citizens, under doctrine of Parens Patriae, to protect the children of the country. The apathy of the State, in acting against the perpetrators and giving exemplary punishment, has manifested itself in the shape of such barbarism continuing unabated. The State’s omission to act is criminal and against the provisions of Article 35 of Constitution. Despite the ratification of the UN Convention on Rights of the Chid (CRC), successive Pakistani governments have failed to protect the future generation.

Instead of coming down hard on such unscrupulous elements, the State has itself become hostage to them. Since the 2014 Peshawar carnage at the Army Public School, the State has been unable to control the law and order situation. Children, especially, have been at the receiving end of terrorism and criminal gangs. To counter a spike in crime, the State suggests people to lock themselves inside their home, a clear expression of defeat by the Government.

Due to the rise in kidnapping incidents, the summer breaks have officially been extended to whole of Punjab Province. Instead of implementing special security measures to curb kidnapping, the government is providing compensation and prolonging summer breaks.

In many cases of child kidnapping, the Police is itself involved. Recently, the media reported that police had busted a gang involved in the kidnapping of children. Two of the culprits turned out to be wives of senior police officials. According to media reports, a senior police official involved in the investigation, upon being asked to comment, stated, “what is more worrisome is the fact that the wife of a serving SHO is also involved in child abduction. This means police officials were engaged in the entire process in one way or the other.”

The incident is a reminder of how, as humans, we have failed to protect or children. What kind of childhood are these children expected to have? The scars in the minds and souls of the children might never heal.

The improvement in the child rights situation in Punjab demands various coordinated efforts based on an integrated and holistic approach. As the child rights related subjects have been devolved to provinces after the 18th Amendment, the government of Punjab urgently needs to notify the establishment of a Child Protection Authority according to the Child Protection Authority Act, 2011.

Provincial, as well as district level, child protection units need to be established without unnecessary delay. Budgetary allocations for effective and smooth running of the Authority and its units need to be ensured.

About the writer: Javeria Younes is an advocate, human rights defender, and a legal researcher. She can be reached at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-046-2016
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Child rights, Democracy, Freedom of expression, Institutional reform, Legislation, Right to education, Right to food, Rule of law,