PESHAWAR, July 28: A Karachi-based Pakhtun volunteer organisation has launched a campaign on social media to pursue parents not to buy toy guns for their children and instead buy them other toys on Eid that can trigger their imaginative and creative flight.
Amjad Shahzad, a noted singer who leads the campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched by the ‘Rana Development Trust’, told Dawn: “If we make a concerted effort to keep our children away from buying toys like guns, pistols and other such toys, which encourage violence, and instead we hand them books, pens, colours and things that help them become better humans and citizens, it will go a long way in preventing the spread of violence in our society.”
Mr Shahzad informed that the volunteers launched the anti-toy gun campaign in Thana area of Malakand Agency, where a large number of schoolchildren demanded of the government to impose ban on sale of such toys. He said the volunteers would discuss the issue with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa parliamentarians to raise it on the assembly floor. “Legislation needs to be made in this regard to curb such evil trend,” he said.
Mr Shahzad said he would talk to dealers, parents, writers, intellectuals and heads of educational institutions across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata to save children from a potential evil. “Different competitions especially painting events will be held among students to highlight the negative effects of toy weapons and to encourage them to take interest in other types of toys, books, colours and useful digital gadgets,” he said.
He said: “We urge all our friends to spread this message to enhance awareness about this small but very significant aspect in the shape of leaflets in our homes, our hujras (guest houses), our schools, our bazaars and mosques.
This way the message can be spread to all communities, homes and families. This will go a long way in preventing the spread of violence in our future generations.”
Meanwhile, the volunteers of the Rana Development Trust posted a message on the social media highlighting that toy guns cast serious negative impact on the impressionable minds of children especially teenagers who easily internalise the violence being glorified in local tele-films and CDs.
According to the message, once the children learn how to use a toy weapon, they later face no problem in tackling real automatic weapons. “They become more prone and exposed to using violence and become least interested in reading books or sports,” said the campaigners in the message.
The message says that according to a survey conducted by the trust in 2012, parents bought their children toy guns of various types and forms on Eid festival worth Rs20 million. Most of the toy guns manufacturers and dealers are unfortunately based in Pakhtun majority slum areas in Karachi while the local dealers also import toy guns from China and other countries on a large scale in Peshawar’s Karkhano market, which is famous for imported goods, says the message.
The message said: “We want peace and want to work towards peace. Today, the 55 million strong Pakhtun nation is confronted with enormous challenges to its survival and growth. Wherever Pakhtuns live, they are faced with the menace of terrorism, target killings, suicide bombings, and destruction of its institutions like schools, hujras, mosques, and even homes. Have we ever thought about the root causes of this menace? Have we ever questioned ourselves…Why?”
About the motivation behind launching the anti-toy gun campaign, the volunteers said in the message: “We, a few friends, have embarked upon a mission to spread awareness about the small things that contribute inadvertently to the spread of violence in society. In pursuit of this mission we are going to appeal to all the Pakhtun/Afghan parents to think about the toys that they buy for their children on the occasions of Eidul Fitr and Eidul Azha.”
“We appeal to the parents as well as the children to refrain from buying toys like guns and pistols that add to the culture of extremism and violence. We urge them to instead buy toys like telescopes, cameras, cars, colours, and pens, which arouse creativity in the minds of our children,” reads the message.