The police on Wednesday raided a house in the Liaquatabad neighbourhood of Karachi and recovered 26 minor girls, apparently kept in illegal detention. According to DIG Central Captain (retd) Tahir Naveed, the girls were students of an unregistered Islamic seminary.
“A woman, Hameeda, from Bajaur Agency was running the madrassa but three days back she brought the girls, all aged between 6 and 12 years, to the house in Liaquatabad C-Area and left them to the care of Ayub, the owner of the house,” he said.
He said residents informed the nearby police station after they noticed dozens of girls taken into a house in their neighbourhood. “The police later raided the house, found the girls and shifted them to the SSP office,” he said.
Neighbours said dozens of people had gathered outside the house since early Wednesday morning. “We took food for the girls as we found that no one had given them anything to eat in the night,” said a woman from the neighbourhood.
According to DIG Naveed, Ayub owed Hameeda Rs200,000. “But when he failed to return the money, Hameeda took the girls to his house so that he feeds the girls, bear their expenses and she could recover her money,” he said.
Ayub admitted that he owed money to Hameeda, saying that he had to keep the girls in order to return the money. The police later in the evening brought seven more girls from the madrassa, who were left there and all the people involved in the matter were in police custody. “Baji [Hameeda] took us to this house and then disappeared. We had no food but by 12 in the night a lady from the neighbourhood brought us rice and we ate it,” P*, one of the girls, told The Express Tribune in the SSP office.
P* and the rest of the girls do know the name of their teacher and call her ’Baji’. All of them are from Bajaur Agency, speak only Pashtu and were sent to the seminary to learn the Holy Quran.
“Our priority is to trace the parents of the girls,” said Naveed. “Until then they will be in government custody,” added the police officer. “We will only hand these girls to their parents – not their relatives,” said SHO Hassan Hyder.
Arrests in Khar
Two suspects have been arrested from Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur Agency for questioning. They are allegedly involved in taking these children from their homes. Separately, Political Agent Yahya Akhoonzada sent a Jirga to Karachi to stay there till the safe return of the girls to their parents. Bajaur Agency MNA Shahabuddin Khan has also reached Karachi to ensure safe return of the girls to their parents.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 27th, 2014.