SADIQABAD/MULTAN: Several cheques given to children who were smuggled to Dubai to be trained as camel jockeys bounced recently.
One reason for the bouncing of cheques, according to the banks, is that the date on the cheques had passed. “The cheques were issued for January 1, 2010 but the child protection labour bureau of the Punjab government passed on the cheques in September,” told one bank official to a parent of the affected children.
The affected children and their parents have been struggling to get the cheques cashed and have protested against the government. According to the families, the children were brought back from Dubai eight years ago, after which the UAE government had taken responsibility for the children and promised compensation.
On Friday, the child protection labour bureau distributed $1,000 cheques among the children.
According to the parents of several children, the bank returned the cheques saying that there was no money in the stipulated accounts and that the funds had been returned.
In Sadiqabad the father of Amjad and Irfan, who used to be camel jockeys, Nazar Hussain said that he had sent his children to Dubai, from where they were repatriated. “We have been unable to cash the cheques,” he said.
“When we spoke to the department officials about the lapsed cheques they told us that new ones would be issued soon or the money released on the same cheques. They told us to be patient,” said Amjad. Hussain said that hundreds of people like him had not been provided with aid, adding that they were facing financial difficulties.
In Multan, protests by the parents of camel jockeys entered the second day as compensation cheques provided by the Punjab government were rejected by various banks. On the orders of the Supreme Court, several cheques had been distributed among the families from Hamzay Wali, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan and other places earlier in the year.
Parents of the children including Abdul Ghafoor, Muhammad Kashif, Abdul Jabbar, Amir Bukhsh, Talib Hussain, Samad Ali, Hassnain, Imran and others demanded that chief justice of Pakistan take immediate notice of the situation.
The former government brought camel jockeys back home and promised to provide aid to the affected children based on the severity of injuries they had sustained working as camel jockeys.
“The aid was initially supposed to be provided in the form of a monthly stipend but the children have not received given stipends for the last one-and-a-half year,” said Muhammad Kashif’s father Haroon. “When we didn’t receive the money we moved the Supreme Court to pursue the matter,
he said. On the court’s orders, hundreds of children were given cheques but 40 children have yet to receive their compensation cheques.
According to the parents, four schools as well as the child protection bureau camel jockey project, which are being run with the cooperation of UNICEF were closed eight months ago.
The project was initially started to create awareness about children who were smuggled and turned into camel jockeys. The project was also meant to provide schooling for the children. Parents of camel jockeys have demanded that the government restart the project.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.
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