Report
 
Missing children-- a worrying trend
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Visits 950
Visits 950
    
February 10, 2012
Almost every day the mosque’s Imam makes a serious announcement that sends shivers down our spine. It is not the fear of hearing a death announcement. Death is inevitable and everyone will have to go the way of all flesh. Instead, it is the dread of hearing the announcement of yet another missing child.

Announcements of children reported missing from outside their homes, streets and mohallahs have become a worrying trend nowadays. The vast majority of these children reported missing are boys only because a perceived ‘loss of honour’ often prevents families from reporting missing girls.

Child and women rights NGO, Roshni Helpline, in its annual report on Karachi stated collecting data from 15 mosques from each town, totalling 270 mosques. On average two announcements were made from every mosque every month. A total of 24 cases of missing children were reported from each mosque each year, which makes the total number of missing children at 6480 announced through the loudspeakers of 270 mosques from January to December 2010.

According to a study conducted in 2010 by Plan International, a non-government organisation, nearly 3,000 children a year go missing in Pakistan. Yet the total number may be far higher as many disappearances, including runaways, abductions and trafficking victims, go unreported. The precise number of those still missing and for what reason is impossible to gauge in the absence of a nationwide database.

The magnitude of problems that Karachi faces makes the whole city a high alert area for children. However, there are areas where more cases of missing of children are reported than in other areas. According to the data collected by Roshni Helpline, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Baldia and Korangi Towns were high alert areas for children in 2010. For example, Baldia Town has three police stations and in one year over 100 cases were reported. In Gulshan-e-Iqbal, which has 8 police stations, a total of 300 cases were reported over a span of 12 months. Korangi Town is another high alert town where a total 144 cases were reported in three police stations in a year.

Is that fact not alarming enough to start taking steps towards preventing it? Missing children range in age from 5 to 16 and while some return home, many are never found. The reasons for their disappearance also vary – from runaways escaping abuse or poverty to children snatched to be sold into child labour or sex trade or kidnapped for ransom. The rate of recovery of the missing children remained two percent. In some cases children have been recovered after a month.

It is hard to imagine the anguish parents feel when their children go missing. The long, painful hours of waiting to hear something about them or the treacherous thoughts of what could have happened to them must be utterly unbearable. But do parents, especially mothers ever wonder that they may be the reason for their children’s unexpected disappearance? It is quite understandable that working mothers do not have the time to devote to their children, but what of all those housewives who have nothing better to do then take care of the household chores and devote time to their children?

There is no doubt that bringing up children and taking care of the house is not an easy task. It’s a full-time job. However, in Pakistan we have a wonderful support network. The family system in Pakistan is that of extended family. So there is always a grandmother and aunts who chip in with the household chores and look after the children too. Then there is hardly any household where a “maasi” is not employed to do the necessary household chores like cleaning, dusting, washing utensils, doing the laundry etc. Those who can afford it, there is a full time maasi to look after the children.


God forbid if the maasi falls sick or is on leave for one day, the lady of the house spends the whole day hurling profanities at the absent maasi. At the end of the day, firing the maasi in the morning is all she can think about besides complaining to the husband how tired she is.

Unlike their well-to-do counterparts who spend their days schmoozing and brunching, the middle class housewives instead of doing something productive, meaningful with their time like taking proper care of the children, prefer to spend the time gossiping, shopping, watching morning shows, Star Plus and the numerous soap operas on different private channels.

A study by Anjum Zia (2004) concluded that entertainment was the primary purpose of viewing cable television and 70 percent female cable viewers were interested in watching only two kinds of programmes: films and dramas. Only 17.3 percent of women used cable television for information and awareness purpose. When mommy doesn’t have the time—ooops sorry! — can’t tear herself from the idiot box, what are the kids supposed to do? Play in the streets of course. It is really sad to see children, some who cannot even walk properly, let out on the streets so that mommy dear can rest and watch TV. It is only towards evening, the time when the husband is supposed to be home, that these women starts looking for their child who did not turn up even after sunset. This is the time the family runs from pillar to post to find the child.

Then comes the crackle of the mosque’s loudspeaker, giving details of the missing child. The missing cases of toddlers are extremely heart-wrenching and would make one want to question humanity. Everyone seems to sympathise with the poor mother. No one bothers to hammer some sense into her for her carelessness.

A child comes to the world as a consequence of the mother deciding to keep the baby. And when she makes a choice of bringing her baby to the planet, she should also stand by her decision and take responsibilities attached to them. How is it that a child just goes missing from a house, or from out of the street? Guilty or not, a parent is responsible for a child, especially as small as the missing children.

Respect for the sunburnt woman working in the fields with a baby on her back grows by leaps and bounds while looking at the values these women have. Even urban working mothers spend quality time with their children. A stay-at-home mum may be there physically, she may also have her mind on other things and not actually provide her child/children with the same attention as a working mother who makes the most of the limited time she has. Every child deserves to feel safe and secure, and not be left wondering in the streets if his/her parents, especially mother, does not have the time for them. Mothers are responsible for the safety and welfare of their children and therefore they should be blamed completely if their child goes missing.


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