Camel jockeys: For mere princely pleasure

Children from poor localities are made camel jockeys in the UAE by wealthy and powerful princes.

Zahid Gishkori October 28, 2010

ISLAMABAD: It is a heart-breaking tale of several hundred children from impoverished neighbourhoods across Pakistan whose lives have been lost to the whims of the wealthy and the powerful princes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). And the governments’ apathy and delay in alleviating their pain and suffering is simply an indication of how forgotten and forsaken they are.

Dado Mitha Ram of Rahim Yar Khan is left with just memories of his lost son. The screams weren’t heard by anyone when his son Ram Das was kidnapped, to ultimately lose his life as a camel jockey in the UAE in 2006. “Those who champion the cause of human rights appear to be silent on this issue. We have never received any help from anyone.”

Camel racing, a banned game in the UAE, has left hundreds of Pakistani families at the mercy of princes of Gulf countries; children are sacrificed for their entertainment. The UAE government has paid Rs748 million to some 866 victim families in reparations,” officials at the interior ministry told The Express Tribune.

Hundreds of parents have refused to take reparation from the interior ministry which sought recommendation from the ministry of social welfare and child protection bureau Lahore for the distribution of money, an official said on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, an official letter stated that the interior ministry wrote to the parties concerned on October 9, 2010. It read: “Some 34, 000 children have been used in camel races in UAE belonging to Burma, Sudan, Bangladesh, USA, Pakistan and India for three decades. Some 866 Pakistani children were smuggled illegally to the UAE in this regard.”

The UAE government sent some 866 cheques to the ministry of interior for the victim families last year. The ministry continued to hold some 250 cheques which had to be distributed in 16 districts. Some 666 cheques were to be distributed in Punjab, 42 in Sindh and 160 in AJK, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Hasan Mangi, a senior official of the ministry of social welfare confirmed to The Express Tribune that the ministry of interior sent him a letter some weeks back pertaining to the cheques sent by the UAE government for victim families seeking co-operation in this behalf.

“Most parents who refused to accept reparations belong to Rahim Yar Khan,” he added.

Muhammad Sharif, who lost three sons in the banned sport, has appealed to the local court for justice but is still waiting for it. They belonged to Lari Ada Stop in DG Khan District. Some 77 parents who have lost their children have been protesting against the government. Meanwhile, the parents of Babar Ali in Sheikhupur have refused to take the cheque.

Spokesperson of interior ministry confirmed to The Express Tribune that the ministry could not distribute the cheques given by the UAE government due to the non-availability of children’s addresses.

Former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, who took up the issue with the UAE government in 2006, said: “I had formally taken up the issue with my UAE counterpart in Dubai and later the race was banned by the officials.” However, there is a pressing need to implement an amended act ‘Trafficking Victims Protection’, he explained.

The Express Tribune also wrote officially to Ali Saif-al-Auuani, UAE Ambassador to Pakistan in Islamabad last week to know about the reparations paid to victim families but even after several reminders there was no reply.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2010.


yaqoob | 10 years ago | Reply Steve Moore from Lahore has done some great film shooting on the topic in RYK.
SA | 10 years ago | Reply This is what we call MADNESS!!
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