After Punjab, kidnapping concerns now test nerves of Karachi residents

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Karachi: With the entire Punjab province in frenzy over 767 reported abductions of children so far this year, a panic of sorts was now starting to grip residents of the metropolis after incidents of both successful and failed kidnappings were reported from several of its neighbourhoods.

Two weeks ago, residents of Mansehra Colony – a low-income area – were fraught with terror after five cases of attempted kidnapping surfaced in the locality. The area lay within the jurisdiction of the Sharafi Goth police station.

It was only after 10-year-old Akbar Ali managed to free himself from his kidnappers that his family got to know of what had happened to their child.

Ali was picked up from near his house in the colony by unknown men and taken to the Landhi railway station where the men boarded the Bahauddin Zakria Express train. On reaching Sanghar the boy jumped out of the train and asked a local to call his father (Hidyatullah) up.

Ali had informed his family that he was not alone but another boy, between five to seven years old, accompanied them; the child was also according to Ali abducted from Karachi. However, the family complained that the local police did not register an FIR.

Lynching suspects

The incidents have without an iota of doubt added to the already precarious mental state of this city’s residents, but incidents of individuals being brutally beaten up on mere suspicion had also considerably increased now.

Two days ago a woman was lynched by a mob in Gulshan-e-Iqbal for the alleged kidnapping of a three-year-old girl. She was later handed over to the police. While the same day in Sikanderabad, Keamari, two more women, who later turned out be beggars, were badly beaten up on the pretext of attempting to kidnap a child.

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In a third incident this week, residents of Steel Town, on Friday, beat up a man identified as Farhan for abducting nine-year-old Aamir. However, SHO Bin Qasim, Ghulam Ali Lakho, informed The News that the man was in fact a drug addict and had not kidnapped any child.

Police deny ‘rumours’

However, according to police the reports were nothing more than ‘rumours’. And that those spreading them were doing so to settle their personal scores by getting their rivals beaten up, but would not be excused.

SSP East said the residents were torturing beggars, mentally disabled people and drug addicts. “Police will not allow anyone to take the law in their hands and will take action against those who beat the mentally disabled and drug addicts up by spreading the rumours,” he said.

City police chief Mushtaq Maher, in a statement issued on Wednesday, denied any high alert with respect to the kidnappings of children or women being issued.

“There is no truth to reports of either children being kidnapped systematically or dead bodies being recovered.”

He claimed the information to this effect was being spread with malafide intentions with the sole purpose of triggering panic for parents and to discredit efforts of the law enforcers – the police and Rangers.

Not a new phenomenon

Child rights activists, on the other hand, stated that abduction of children was not a new phenomenon at all since hundreds of children mysteriously disappear from the port city every year.

As per the annual report of Roshni Helpline – a Karachi-based organisation working on disappearance of children – revealed that 2,160 children went missing from the city only during 2015.

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Rana Asif Habib, an activist who runs a child rights’ organisation said in cases of abduction and disappearance of children, police discourage families from registering FIRs. “It is the only reason that we do not have any authentic statistics regarding children who went missing,” Habib told The News.

Another activist said that there were not one but several criminal groups that have been active in the city.

“The abducted children are not just kidnapped for ransom but are also sold into beggary, handed over to organ harvesters or drug smugglers, sometimes they were found to have been sold into bounded labour or used for sexual abuses,” Habib said.

While the children going missing may actually not be a new phenomenon, it was in 2011 that the Sindh Assembly passed a bill on child protection, which later became an act. However, according to Habib, as was in case of several other laws, the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act had since remained ineffective.

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