LAHORE: Police investigation shows that no organised gang of kidnappers is operating in the province. If anyone has evidence to contradict this claim they should bring that forward rather than making empty statements about it, Home Minister Rana Sanaullah said at a press briefing on Saturday.
He said those using the issue to malign the government were spreading baseless rumors for their personal motives.
He said the government did not deny that kidnapping of children was a problem that needed to be addressed. However, it should not be blown out of proportion. He said the rumours had caused some citizens to panic and others to be scared. This had led to incidents where mobs had gathered and beaten up people caught over mere suspicion.
Sanaullah also dismissed as baseless suggestion that gang involved in organ transplantation of kidnapped children was operational in the province. He said the police had thoroughly investigated the matter and could not find any such case.
He said the National Action Plan had been implemented in the province in letter and spirit. He said use of loudspeakers for promotion of hate speech had been banned and seminaries across the province geo-tagged under the NAP. He said that in various combing and intelligence-based operations security agencies had killed a number of people whose association with terrorist outfits was established beyond a shadow of doubt.
Later, Operations Additional IG Arif Nawaz and Operations AIG Shahzada Sultan gave a briefing about the number of missing and recovered children throughout the province.
Operations AIG Sultan said that 6,793 children had been reported missing from (2011 to July 25, 2016. Of these, 6,661 (98 per cent) had returned home on their own or were reunited with their families with police efforts. As many as 139 were still missing, he added.
Year-wise breakup of cases:
Sultan said that 767 children were reported missing since July 25 in 2016. Of these, 715 were recovered and52 were still missing, he said.
In 2015, 1,134 children had been reported missing from their homes, he said. Of these, 1,093 (96 per cent) were recovered and 41 were still missing, he said. In 2014, 1,203 children had been reported missing but 1,185 (99 per cent) were eventually recovered or returned home on their own, he said. He added that 18 were still missing.
In 2013, he said 1,157 children had been reported missing but 1,141 (99 per cent) were eventually recovered or returned on their own. He said 16 were still missing. In 2012, he said 1,260 children had been reported missing and 1,256 (99 per cent) were eventually recovered or returned on their own. In 2011, he said 1,272 had been reported missing but 1264 (99 per cent) were eventually recovered or returned on their own.
Analysis of cases
The AIG said that an analysis of cases over the span of five years showed that incidents of kidnapping were a minute fraction of the number of missing children cases. He said statistics also showed that there was no new phenomenon. “Every year, on average 1,200 children are reported missing from their homes,” he said.
Reasons reported by children when found
The AIG said that interviews with 1,800 children who returned on their own or were recovered in 2015-16 showed that 44.1 per cent (795 children) had left home over harsh treatment by parents. Among the rest, 21.6 percent (392 children) had lost their way but were later found and reunited with their families, 7.6 percent (138 children ) fled over various domestic disputes, 6.1 percent (111 children) were taken away by one of their parents, 5.1 per cent (93 children) were recovered by the police, 4.6 percent (83 children) escaped from seminaries due to maltreatment, 2.9 percent (51 children) were forced into beggary or bonded labour, 2.3 percent (42 children) were abducted for sexual abuse and 1.6 per cent (29 children) were children with special needs.
The AIG said that there was a misperception that the police were not doing enough. He said that in 2015-16 the police had registered 2,006 kidnapping cases, of which 1,054 were later canceled. He said challans were issued and 1,563 suspects were arrested in 952 cases. There had been six convictions in the period, he said. He said 668 suspects were still in prison and 784 had been released on bail. As many as 105 had been acquitted for lack of evidence against them, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2016.