PAKISTAN: 521/2160 girls missing in 2015. 7 murdered children reported.

A Statement from Roshni helpline Research and Development Organization forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The missing children’s search and recovery organization Roshni Helpline has published its annual report for 2015 on missing children in Karachi Pakistan, one of the largest industrial cities. A total of 2160 children have been reported missing in the city.

Of the missing children, 1639 were boys. Their ages ranged from one to 18 years, which is the definition of the maximum age of a child according to the United Nations.

Seven children were reported murdered, at different times, after they went missing. This is the most depressing aspect of the cases of missing children. However, according to Roshni Helpline, the missing children can be protected from serious violence, such as murder, by an early reporting of the case to the police.

There is no law to register an FIR on missing children. So, Police delays and negligence are an added reason behind the lapse in the recovery of children before they are subjects of serious crimes.

The real issue behind police delays is the law. There is no section in the Pakistan Penal Code that recognizes the subject of missing children as a crime. This provides the police with an excuse not to register the FIR of a missing child and is the legitimate reason that police do not have the authority to do so.

“What happens is, that police once approached by parents, take down the details of a missing child in their daily diary called Roznamcha. This is the diary where details of missing items, such as National Identity Cards, are noted. Muhammad Ali, the president of Roshni Helpline, said that “it is not appropriate that cases of children are reported in such a diary.”

Roshni Helpline has consistently demanded an amendment in the law to give legal status to cases of missing children. Without legal backing, it is difficult to check missing children in the city, with the number staying above 2000 year after year.

The Roshni has repeatedly called for a survey of the colonies of beggars in the city. These colonies have been involved in serious crimes in the past. This includes kidnapping of children to be used as beggars. They are benefiting from public facilities including water, electricity and other amenities. But there is no check on their movements or settlements. They should be registered and issued proper, identifying legal documents so that their actions can be monitored regularly.

Data collected by the Roshni Helpline shows 521 missing girls. This number is not as large as those 1639, of the missing boys. But, it is appalling that so many girls, in the period of one year, have gone missing.
The age of the girls ranged, from one to 18 years. This means that girls 12 years and above were at greater risk of being sexually exploited including being used for the purposes of organized prostitution. These kinds of situations have been reported some years later after recovery.

“Missing girls above 12 years of age are very sensitive cases. It is highly likely that these girls have become victims of sexual violence at an organized level,” Helpline’s president said. “A number of cases have been reported where girls are lured away by family friends, acquaintances, or tricked by organized criminals. Some become victims of a conservative, violent family environment.”

Out of the missing children, 503 were boys and girls aged between 1 and 7 years, 982 between 8 and 12 years and 675 between the ages of 13 and 18 years.

The Roshni Helpline monitored, pulled together and analysed data from different sources throughout the year. Their methods included direct, personal interviews, phone interviews, visits of police stations and network partners. A total of 2078 cases were collected from more than 100 police stations.

Additionally, newspapers were scanned for reported cases of missing children. Interestingly, the organization monitored different areas of the city and found as many as eight cases of missing children. These cases were chalked up to families of the missing children. When Helpline approached these families, for their record collection, they were found to be genuine cases.

Roshni Helpline had been sensitizing city mosques to report missing children to police stations. All cases registered in the mosques for loudspeaker announcement, were reported to the police. Data collected from mosques was amalgamated with the data collected from police stations.

A positive aspect in the report is data on the recovery of children. There were 1432 children who were reported recovered by their families to police and the Roshni Helpline. However, the recovery figure includes children who went missing in 2015, 2014, 2013, and before.

So while the number of children recovered is encouraging, in reality it does not have much of an impact on the number of children who went missing in 2015. Many families are still going through the agony of waiting for the recovery and reunion with their children.
Interviews and assessments by the Roshni Helpline show that the missing of children has destroyed families, socially and economically. A large number of families are from less developed areas. These poverty-stricken parents have to make the hard choice between continuing searching for their missing children or continuing their daily work that sustains the family.

“In many cases the total family structure collapses. Mothers find it too hard to face the psychological trauma, becoming terminally ill and even handicapped,” said Ali, “while fathers lose their source of income while in search and hope of recovery of their missing children. Since many of them are daily wage earners, the economic impact of their child’s loss, which is often ignored in analysis, is very severe.”

The Roshni Helpline has been running its helpline 1138 since 2006, providing free services to parents and guardians in search, recovery and rehabilitation of missing children. The organization also provides psychosocial care to the affected families supporting them as they bear the loss of a loved one.

Ali, who founded the organization and has been a human rights activist for about 30 years, added “we have developed a comprehensive mechanism based on network partners and volunteers and are leading a movement to establish the country’s first search and search and recovery model.” “Still, the issue of missing children is immense, not just geographically but thematically as well.”

The Roshni Helpline has worked on the issue of missing children in disaster areas all over Pakistan, including all areas of Sindh.

The views shared in this statement do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.