Only in August, the country was in the grip of mass child abduction rumours. Last week, when three school-going girls went missing in Karachi, the same fears resurfaced. Within a matter of days, the girls were recovered safely and it was revealed they were not kidnapped but had run away from home – a common trend in most missing cases across Pakistan.
According to media reports, around 44% of children who went missing in Punjab in recent years were runaways while about 20% were lost. There are, of course, a small percentage of those who get kidnapped but it does not justify the out of proportion speculation about organised abductions.
In Karachi, according to Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC), a total of 335 children have gone missing since January 2015 till this date with all except 25 cases solved. For security reasons, CPLC is not authorised to share the reasons behind those missing but an official, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the majority of cases in Karachi are of children who run away because of domestic problems. The average recovery rate in the city, the official added, is also very high with missing children found in a day or two.
Who’s responsible for spreading rumours?
There is no denying that children are kidnapped in Pakistan and that law enforcement agencies must remain prepared to recover them quickly and effectively. But, we must also look at the other side of the story, where a big number of innocent minds willingly leave their safe havens for an assumed better life and the role parents play in the entire situation.
A 2011 research report on runaway children from Balochistan revealed most children decided to run away because of punishment at home and school as well as for being forced to study. The report lists strict behaviour, loose supervision and continuous punishment by parents as major mistakes in runaway cases. To avoid this from happening, the research suggested parents should focus on providing a conflict-free atmosphere at home, good education and proper supervision and guidance free of physical punishment.
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Given the evidence, parents have a major responsibility in reducing the national figure of missing children.
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