Only 16pc of missing children found in 2012 | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Only 16pc of missing children found in 2012

Karachi: As many as 2,317 children reportedly went missing from the jurisdiction of 106 police stations in 20 towns of Karachi, and only 16 percent of them were recovered, according to data collected by the Roshni Helpline, a civil society group working to uphold the rights of women and children.

On average, two children from each police station were reported missing every month over the last 10 months. Both boys and girls were included in the tally.

“If a child (under 18) goes out of contact of family or guardians, he or she is considered as missing child,” said Muhammad Ali, head of Roshni Helpline, while releasing the yearly report on missing children.

Roshni Helpline handled 476 cases of missing children during the outgoing year. However, only 61 of the 476 cases were registered in police stations as non-cognizable offences as the police think that the recovery of these children is not their responsibility.

“The actual number of missing children is much higher than the ones reported to the police stations and quoted in the report,” said Ali. The NGO also collected data from 16 mosques in each town. The mosques made announcements regarding two to three children reportedly missing from the area connected to each mosque per month. These mosques announced thousands of children as missing from their vicinities.

The data says that of the total missing children, 68.12 percent were boys and 32.88 percent were girls. The majority of the missing children were between the ages of two to eight years. The recovery ratio has increased due to awareness campaigns and sensitisation of the people on the issue of missing children by the civil society.

Roshni Helpline helps families in lodging FIRs of their missing or kidnapped children. In many cases, families/parents report cases of missing children to the NGO. It is also observed that in most of the cases, police treat a missing or kidnapping case as a non-cognizable offence, which results in no action; rather, it causes more difficulties for the family.

A majority of the cases reported to police are lodged in Roznamcha – the daily diary referred to as Kachi FIR. No investigation officer is appointed and no action is taken unless and until an FIR is registered under a cognizable offence, called a “Pakki” FIR.

Police log the case in the daily diary and send the parents off, advising them to keep searching their children as if it was not the duty of the police. The families of missing children instead of instantly reporting to the police try to search children in their own localities, and thus cause a critical delay in the recovery time. Police add to this loss of the recovery time by not acting timely even if cases are reported to them, as they do not consider such cases worth any action.

“One of the reasons behind less recovery or delayed recovery is that parents and families do not follow the path, that is the reporting of the cases timely to police,” said Ali. It is necessary to lodge FIRs of a missing or kidnapped child. Families waste their time in going to fake religious saints (peers) for the recovery of their children.

These practices further consume much of the recovery time and goes to the benefit of the kidnappers and not to the victim. “In many cases a considerable amount of time is lost, and there is fear that the child if he/she had been kidnapped might have been trafficked from the area of residence. Then there is a less chance and hope of tracing him/her immediately,” he added.

Ali said Roshni Helpline had made a presentation to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights, and urged it to improve the reporting mechanism for missing children at the police stations.

The committee has ordered the provincial police chief to take cognizance of this important issue, but steps have not been taken to remedy the situation. “Roshni has also filed a petition in the Sindh High Court to get the police reporting of the missing children improved so that timely and prompt action is taken once a child is reported missing,” Ali said.

High alert areas

According to the data collected, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Liaquatabad, Old City and Jamshed Towns were high alert areas for children in 2012. It is Roshni Helpline’s observation that Mahmoodabad, District South and Mobina Town, District East were high alert areas, where some children were also raped and murdered.

The majority of children which were kidnapped from these areas belonged to the age group of 4-12 years.

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