The missing children

Children are going missing in Punjab and the level of abductions has reached the point where the police and the civil authorities have decided to reach out to Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) for assistance with both recovering the missing children and capturing their abductors. The numbers are startling. In 2015, there were over 1,200 children kidnapped in Punjab and the figure for 2016 is 767 so far, with children principally disappearing from Lahore, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Faisalabad. It is generally accepted that the figure represents an under-reporting as families are wary of involving law-enforcement agencies. There are suspicions that law-enforcement agencies are themselves complicit in some abductions.

Who takes the children and why is rarely clear or explicit, and it is not always for ransom. Some are taken to use as prostitutes, both male and female, others especially those from minority faith groups are taken to make a forced conversion to Islam followed by a marriage. Militants and ‘criminal elements’ from both Sindh and K-P are known to be engaged in this dreadful business — and many do regard it as ‘business’ and children are the commodity that they trade — hence the reaching out by Punjab.

The commodification of children in this vile manner is symptomatic of the collapse of moral and ethical values, the lowest common denominator of criminality. Children are the softest of targets. They play unsupervised in the streets from a young age, some as young as two-or three-year-old, and may not be missed by inattentive parents for hours. The kidnappers are often long gone by the time the child is found to have been abducted. Witnesses are few — who is going to take note of a child being picked up by whoever — and tragedy unfolds unknowingly before our eyes. Law-enforcement agencies have their successes, and the Punjab police told the Supreme Court last week that 715 children have been recovered for which praise is due, but ultimately the safety of children at the primary level rests with their parents and not the state. Know where your children are at all times, because stranger-danger is greatest when parental eyes are averted.

Original news :