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Bombings force Pakistani children into work

Published Oct 28, 2011 04:34am


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Zabita Khan serves drinking water to a customer at a shop in Peshawar.—AFP

PESHAWAR: At seven years old, it's a struggle for Zabita Khan to work all afternoon, dodging vehicles, rickshaws and donkey carts to carry drinks for thirsty customers in a hot, crowded Pakistani market.

But two years ago his father was killed in a bomb attack and he has to work to put food on the table for his family.

So after school, he spends sizzling afternoons catering to shopkeepers and their guests for 300 rupees ($3.50) a month in Peshawar.

“I don't like working in the market. I like school, where I study and play hide and seek with friends,” said a downcast Zabita, working the same street where his father was killed on October 28, 2009.

“I don't have friends over here. I come here because my mother sends me and tells me I have to work for my family, for my siblings,” said Khan, who has two younger brothers —Sajjad, 5, and Arif, 3.

His father Khairullah was killed in one of Pakistan's deadliest attacks —125 people slaughtered when a car bomb tore through the packed Meena Bazaar while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was holdings talks in Islamabad.

There was no claim of responsibility but officials blamed the Taliban.

Thousands more have been wounded or incapacitated, living with injuries slow to heal or that make an ordinary working life impossible.

But a hidden tragedy is the children —indirect victims of terror attacks —who are forced to join already swollen ranks of child labour to help keep their families alive after the loss of a parent.

“We closed the shop for two months after the death of Zabita's father Khairullah. When we reopened, his mother sent him to the shop to work on behalf of his family,” Zabita's uncle, Mohammad Umer told AFP.

“It is our tradition that the eldest son becomes the head and breadwinner of the family after the father's death and Khan is playing that role because his mother wants him to work to avoid bad feeling in the family,” said Umer.

Zarina Jillani, research manager at the Pakistani branch of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, estimates there are 10 million children working in Pakistan, out of a child population of 80 million.

Huge swathes of Pakistan are beset by desperate poverty. According to the last government survey in 1996, 3.3 million children were working.

Government statistics estimate the literarcy rate at 58 per cent and say 22 per cent of the population live in poverty, although independent economists say the figure is closer to 30 per cent.

“No organisation has calculated statistics about children getting involved in work after breadwinners die in bomb attacks but we believe these attacks have enhanced the number of child labourers in the country,” said Jillani.

In Tangi, a town some 125 kilometres (about 80 miles) from the capital Islamabad, in the heart of the northwestern region troubled by a Taliban insurgency, 11-year-old Wajiha is the only girl driving a motorcycle rickshaw.

Her father Inamuddin used to be a proud member of the paramilitary but in July 2006 he was badly injured in a Taliban attack on his paramilitary check post in the northwestern valley of Swat.

After two years in hospital, he was discharged from service with a withered leg and bought a rickshaw for 40,000 rupees ($465) with his pension.

At first he worked alone, and sometimes Wajiha would sit up front with him for fun. But when she realised how painful he found his wounded leg, she took on solo shifts to earn more money.

Now she goes to school in the morning and helps her father in the afternoon, when he gets tired.

“I don't like my daughter going out to work, but I am helpless,” said Inamuddin.Wajiha said she likes to help.

“I feel good to help my father, I also enjoy the drive, it is easy to drive motorcycle rickshaw and earn some money for the family,” she said.

“I make 150 rupees ($1.70) from three trips a day,” she said as she parked the rickshaw and ran into her home.

Comments (82) Closed

Igloo Oct 28, 2011 10:06am
The truly voiceless...
Syed Oct 28, 2011 11:07am
Send this Article to Hillary Clinton who ask us to "Do More" ......
Huma Oct 28, 2011 11:48am
:( Agreed with both commets above.
HASINUL HASAN SIDDIQUI Oct 28, 2011 06:58am
Indian School Muscat Date: 28/10/2011 Sir, Can you provide me with some contacts for Wajiha and Zabita Khan. If I can help in contributing to their school fees, Inshallah it will be of lot of help for them. Sincerely, Hasinul Hasan Siddiqui Muscat
Abhi Oct 28, 2011 12:00pm
Syed, I genuinely feel sorry for the innocents but blaming Hillary does not make sence. Rather politics and terrorism should be held guilty. thanks
ahmed Oct 28, 2011 07:03am
how easy for me to read it and do nothing. o ALLAH can you help the helpless, please. Zabitha and Zarina both are innocent, why must they bear all the pain while war profiteers sits in Washington/Islamabad/ planning their next wars.
Farooq shaikh Oct 28, 2011 12:37pm
Aoa, how can I help zabitha.
Mujtaba Oct 28, 2011 12:38pm
There are many Zabitha & Zarina around us. But sadly, I am the culprit who cannot help them out. Very true that we read, we discuss and then we wait for the next article. I am really scared of that day when same question is going to be asked by Allah. May Allah guide me and my fellow citizens to help the helpless to our fullest Ameen!
waqas Oct 28, 2011 07:48am
salute to Zabitha and Zarina for supporting their family in this situation and just pray for them that may ALLAH solve their problem and give them back their childhood........
Lady Gaga Oct 28, 2011 01:31pm
It is truly pathetic and the truth is that except for the rich every segment of society is hurting.
combaticus Oct 28, 2011 09:11am
In today's news: "Pakistan successfully test fires nuclear-capable cruise missile". How much money was spent in developing this missile? I am guessing millions of rupees. I wish a day would come when instead to making weapons of destruction, we can focus on giving our children a better future.
Manoj Oct 28, 2011 03:00pm
I echo the comment...
Waqas Aziz Oct 28, 2011 03:40pm
There are no words to explain the misery and hard-life the children like Zabita are facing. Developing modern weapons is a need to survive but the money politicians are spending on their Luxuries is the main cause of this all misery suffered by the whole nation which should be used to help families like one mentioned here. May ALLAH help them and give Pakistan stability, solidarity and peace.
Wasif Oct 28, 2011 12:01pm
unimaginable! such a innocent looking young kid .... the way he's holdig the glass, brought tears to my eyes. These are his days to be enjoying playing little games with his siblings at home. Where are all the NGOs and social service wings of political parties, what has been their contribution to alleviate the misery of these families. I would request DAWN to follow up on this story and please provide us some means/ways to contact such needy families and specially the family of this sweet little Zabita so that all of us who wish to contribute/help, we can have reliable & secure means to reach them.
tariq aziz bugti Oct 28, 2011 05:28pm
Respected ,, I like you for your are really great
Altaf Oct 28, 2011 05:34pm
Can Dawn provide me the address/contact of the kid in the picture ? I wish to see him back in the school and will support his education and family Altaf Canada
Abdul Waheed Oct 28, 2011 06:07pm
Very touching. I will be honored if Dawn could help us help these kids. I want them to go to school and will do my best to support. Please share any information that will help us reach these kids. Readers: We should probably start a forum to help such affected kids in Pakistan.
Abul Fazal Oct 28, 2011 06:08pm
i dont want him to become beggar but if we all contribute some money we might help him to complete his education and do good job. May Allah provide us power to help all these type of kids. Please provide bank details for some contribution.
Haney Hassan Oct 28, 2011 07:04pm
Hello guys, I am loving the spirit of this conversation. I applaud the writer of this article, what an eye opening article. Just like you all, I am ready to help this kid out. Those of you willing to fund his education, lets get together (possibly an email group or blog) and get it done. Jazakallah in advance.
111 Oct 28, 2011 07:09pm
i feel sad for these poor kids , so young .
S KHAN Oct 28, 2011 07:49pm
I agree with you.I am ready to help him.
Asadullah KHan Oct 28, 2011 07:52pm
I am ready to be part of a group organised by Dawn or someone. I can contribute on a monthly basis and can generate more funds provided this project can be organised to help children like Zabita and Wajiha. May Allah (SWT) help us form a group.
s khan Oct 28, 2011 08:11pm
Something urgent is needed to do real help of this beautiful soul.I am ready for any type of help.
AH Oct 28, 2011 08:22pm
Look around ppl, if you really want to help, you will find so many Zabitha's and Zarina's around you.
A. Khan Oct 28, 2011 08:30pm
He is but one example and my heart goes out to him. Indeed, he should be playing and studying but not working at this age. Very commendable and generous offers from people to support his education. If you read the article again, Zabita is already going to school. But his family needs the extra income to support their day to day existence i.e. for food and shelter. A better idea would be to contribute to a fund to support the family until Zabita reaches 18 years of age. How sad that this in a country where the foreign minister carries a $25000 hand bag, former and current prime ministers live in luxury and a president who is above the law.
MPARACHA Oct 28, 2011 08:31pm
I agree that both India and Pakistan should sign a peace accord, get out of Kashmir and take care of poverty in both countries.
SYED AHMED Oct 28, 2011 09:02pm
I wish there is a way to help these poor children and there families who are going through these misries.If DAWN can provide a platform from where HELP can be provided to the needy families,we all can do whatever one can do.May God help us.Ameen
ZAFAR MALIK Oct 28, 2011 09:04pm
I would like to contribute too for Zabita and Wajiha, If Dawan could provide me their contact information by my email. Thanks for this article. We all know what is going on in Pakistan, there are millions of Zabitas and Wajihas there, still coming face to face with one of the poor victims is an extremely painfull experience.
Arshad Oct 28, 2011 09:06pm
I too wanted to know their address ..... does someone at dawn really answer? ( alot are asking for Zabita and Wajiha contact adress).
sami Oct 28, 2011 09:34pm
Thanks for so touching article. I would request the author to tell, how can i contribute money for the child. I want to help immediately.
muthu indian Oct 28, 2011 09:46pm
Had tears in my eyes seeing the picture of that kid. Hope well to do pakistanis contribute something towards his education.
Maqsood Oct 28, 2011 10:11pm
How can I get into contact with this Child? I know more need help also but I would like to start somewhere.
Rizwan Mahesar Oct 28, 2011 11:01pm
Sorry!! my innocents i've no word to explain your misery, agony, grief, & your uncountable terible tears! Rizwan Mahesar
bilal Oct 29, 2011 12:37am
The sudden rush of feelings towards this child is just what our mind does to alleviate the anxiety of seeing him in pain, which is a good thing, but not cost effective enough. We need change. To help the million others, who are going to live and die a life of misery and want.
Ahmad Mir Oct 29, 2011 12:38am
Very positive response from some of the readers...but actually this is the hidden cost of the so called war on terror, which has been forced on us..We should tell the world specially the US about all these type of kids and families and help them properly
Pakistani Oct 29, 2011 12:39am
Please start something to gather support for these kids and others in his community. It is our duty to do so. I am ready to help in whatever way I can.
Bilal Oct 28, 2011 07:43pm
Dear Writer, Is there any way I can make a small donation to these families? I am currently not living in Pakistan but can send out donation to someone trusted who can may be deliver to these families. Please email me if you can helpout with this. Salam
Naqi Oct 29, 2011 01:20am
I burst into tears to read this story. To help such orphans is our moral and religious responsibility, I know Dawn is doing great job and I request them to find-out some means, so that people can help such families and send back these kids into school. I am available to help such families.
hoo God! Oct 29, 2011 02:09am
Please let us know to help this kid...
Ya Ali Oct 29, 2011 02:14am
please provide his family contacts, i would like to help this kid i will take partial responsibilities of his education. Kashif USA
asif khan Oct 29, 2011 03:17am
if some one support the 11 year old Wajiha and the young Zabita that would a great job and Allah Almighty will help and reward him in the day of judgment. i wish, some one would come forward and held them
shakil Oct 29, 2011 03:35am
All thanks to our military and ISI
Auon Muhammad Akhtar Oct 29, 2011 03:50am
THE WRITER OF THIS ARTICLE, Could you please provide me some sort of contact details for these people? Or if you are in contact with them, is it possible to set up some means by which I can help these kids? Regards, Auon
Shameel Oct 29, 2011 03:51am
I want to support this family. Can any one please establish the links. I live in uk however have friends in Pakistan who can provide the funds on my behalf
Ahsan Ali Oct 28, 2011 11:08pm
.....and even more importantly, we need to get rid of the Talibans (and the likes) for the reasons too obvious to be mentioned here.
Naushad Oct 29, 2011 06:32am
These articles should be emailed to all US congressmen, so they know the cost of "DO MORE" and real Picture. I will do my part.
Altaf Oct 29, 2011 08:03am
I am waiting for some one from DAWN to provide me the contact/address of Zabita. Please contact me through my email, I will immediately start supporting his education and his family. Altaf Canada
B Oct 29, 2011 09:12am
Dear Dawn, Please provide details on how to help these kids. Please don't leave the story incomplete, it needs contact information of these kids. Please I request you to share with us their contact information. Thank you!!
Talha Butt Oct 29, 2011 09:27am
I want to play a part in this world kids like these have came to me before and we gave them a technical education. Its Ironic how this country never looks upon these people. kids like zabita spent there entire childhood working for money and their innocence blurs away eventually
Talha Butt Oct 29, 2011 09:27am
I want to play a part in this world kids like these have came to me before and we gave them a technical education. Its Ironic how this country never looks upon these people. kids like zabita spent there entire childhood working for money and their innocence blurs away eventually.
Indermeet S. Gill Oct 29, 2011 10:22am
Count me in as I want to contribute for this cause. I don;t see any different in my son and this little kid. But there should be someone out there to tell the people who create such situations for which these little kids have to go through this. The biggest reason I get angry is that kids pay the ultimate price who did not do any wrong at the first place, the situation is caused by some head spinner terrorists who him self have no respect for any life. -
Asad Oct 29, 2011 12:23pm
Count me in as as well. Absolutely heart breaking. Dawn, please advice us how people can help this child and others like him/her.
Adil Oct 29, 2011 01:32pm
My Salute to these kids who are earning "Rizq e Halal" The only way to change the destiny of Pakistan is to remove leaders like Musharraf and Zardari and elect someone like Ahmed Nijad (Iran President)
Taz Oct 29, 2011 01:33pm
hi, everyone is asking for the details to get in touch with these kid and their family, has any one successed yet?
ibad khan Oct 29, 2011 02:11pm
All the readers, and people who have commented, contac first step school Peshawer, they will be able to help you out, i have been monitoring the progress and working with that school. Its a charity school in peshwer, the purpose of the school is to impart primary education to childer, in particular female students free of cost, he school owners, also carry out many other community service projects. In these corrupt time I as a citizen of Pakistan and a son of Peshawer can vouch for the good work of First step school. So if you want to contribute kindly approach them thank you
Abhishek Sinha Oct 29, 2011 03:45pm
Hi Can some one provide any way to contact the family. i would like to help.
hassan Oct 29, 2011 04:24pm
what was there fault?they were innocent n the are.this is wot happening to many of the families due to america's so called war on terror,Peshawar n other northeren areas are very badly effected, but y should our president be worried?i mean Bilawal is gettin education in one of the best institution of world. these kids are the real heroes n far better then Bilawal or me.MAY ALLAH BLESS THEM.
Raheel Oct 29, 2011 05:45pm
Dawn is doing such a great job by frequently publishing such articles
Ashar Grami Oct 29, 2011 07:55pm
Start looking around you and you will find lot of misery stories. Please try doing something for them along with reaching to Zabita and Wajiha. 35,000 Pakistanis have been killed todate since 2002 and there are thousands of such sad stories floating around. We all need to work to eliminate the ulitamte cause of this great loss. Put your share and Insha Allah we will be successful...
Naeem Oct 29, 2011 10:27pm
I would like to help such families and live abroad. Can anyone provide me information? Email me Thank you.
Duvall Smith Oct 29, 2011 10:45pm
Dear Writers to Dawn Newspaper: This fabulous newspaper prints articles that bring out the best in us. We're all inspired to do more for each other, and we keep asking Dawn to supply us with information. Why don't we organize ourselves into "Friends of Dawn" and pool our resources, financial and otherwise, into a powerful and multi-pronged effort to raise the children of our countries in a better environment? I'm sure we all can network together for a great future for our kids. My e-mail is
Taz Oct 29, 2011 11:03pm
hi, can anyone confirm if they have been successful in obtaining the details for these kids.
manoj Oct 29, 2011 11:45pm
really sad to read this article.
Sabreena Syed Oct 30, 2011 12:20am
Dear admin It was heart wrenching...and painful...when i went through the lines...poor little children...paying price of a sin they didn't commit ....May Allah help these innocent souls... Pakistani government should take some immediate steps to help children like these...and media should also create awareness about it...Pakistani president and the like should hang their heads in shame... Regards Sabreena Kashmir Jammu & Kashmir
wikki Oct 30, 2011 02:04am
WOW! Thank you Dawn, for such an inspiring story. We are also VERY interested in helping this family. Further Suggestion: Just like this story we all know that thousands of families have lost their loved ones and only bread winners and are in desperate need for help, right now. It will be really great if we all could have a web-space that contains a list of such needy families that people interested could go and check.
Mahwesh Razzaq Oct 30, 2011 02:21am
I would like to help in any way possible. Anyway I can get contact information?
Mahwesh Razzaq Oct 30, 2011 02:23am
I would like to help.Can I get contact information for the child?
razia Oct 30, 2011 02:34am
i'd like to help these two kids and their families. dawn has a good job of shedding light on these children, but they need to do more. the reporter should give us his name, contact information for the children, how we can reach out to them will be helpful. i'd like more information about them please.
Indian Oct 30, 2011 03:17am
Ohh my God ! Innocent kid , who needs toys and should only play. He has to earn money in hard way ! Wake up entire south Asia . Wake up and think how to bring prosperity. God knows , if we wake up at all ?
raj Oct 30, 2011 06:10am
Consider this story as a message. He is not the only one who needs help. Well if you can't help this kid and really want to help someone, I give you guys a suggestion. Just visit your local tea stall and I'm sure you'll find a similar story. Its all over India and Pakistan. Tragic!
Ali Khan Oct 30, 2011 06:45am
Hi. It is heartbreaking to see the 7 year old kid working to put food on the table. Like other readers, I would also like to help this family if their contact is sent to me through email. Thank you.
Hasan Oct 30, 2011 06:52am
I am crying.
A concerned muslim Oct 30, 2011 07:43am
Good article Dawn and an excellent photograph of Zabita serving water. Please continue providing more true stories and images of the suffering that results from murderous actions in Pakistan. I hope the criminals that instigate bombings in Pakistan see this and realize what they are doing. They use intimidation to get away with murder on this earth, but sooner or later they will have to answer Allah swt.
Raviraj Mahajan Oct 30, 2011 07:55am
Dear Dawn, Please let me know the way to Contribute towards the future of Zabita Khan. It's both ways where Indians and Pakistanis are facing the hardship from Terror attacks.
ram Oct 30, 2011 08:54am
How many more Zabita's before one realize the only way out of this misery is the peace without any condition, forget the past and just embrace the future with confidence, Zabita is paying price for few egomaniac, peace
Abdul Waheed Oct 30, 2011 09:55am
I am really touched by the response. It is amazing how many people want to participate in helping bring the change. These kids have no part to play with the so called "War on Terror." I wish world leaders were made aware of the plight if such kids. I will explore some ways of creating a forum where people can exchange ideas and come up with means to help. Inaction is not an option. Dawn: You have done a great job but now we need your help to move it forward. You have made us aware of the problem but now we need to work together to solve the problem.
Muhammad Affan Oct 30, 2011 12:20pm
I would also like to help. can i get the info for the families too. Please share the details as you will get the reward from ALLAH too. Thanks in advance. Affan
zafar Oct 30, 2011 02:26pm
My sincere thanks to all the readers offering to help this cute little kid. We should all open our eyes and these childerna dn families are everywher with same sad stories. So tjhose of us who do not get a chance to help this kid should go out and look for someone like him, I am sure we will find someone not very far from where we live aand work with our eyes shut. Could you kindly contact me on my email with details of how can I be of some help to this family, will really appreciate.
Marium Oct 30, 2011 07:40pm
I like to help these families. Special thanks to the author of the article for bringing this to our attention. Please email me the contact details of these families. I would really appreciate it. Regards, Marium
aumba Oct 30, 2011 10:34pm
Thank you Dawn for sharing with us this and other stories about kids miseries in India and Pakistan. Please kindy provide me through my email. Informations about Zabita Khan. I would like to help this family. I hope Dawn starts some kind of contribution poole. Where Dawn readers can send money in this poole to be distributed by DAWN. I gave up on ALL political leaders of PAKISTAN. All political leasers cares for their own and cronies pockets.
Kanwal Oct 31, 2011 01:29am
I would like to help zabita and other such children and their families . Our own children live plush lives and we would like to share some of gods bounty bestoed on us with these beautiful children . Please send me details.
Kanwal Oct 31, 2011 01:33am
Would like to help this kid and others like him .please send details