LHRLA President has a Press Conference about the growing problem of smuggling children from Pakistan to the Gulf States as camel jockeys.
We should remember that no cause is worthier than the cause of human rights. Human rights are more than legal concepts; they are the essence of man's life on earth. They are what make man human. That is why they are called human rights; deny them and you deny man's humanity.
Two inhuman terms - camel kids and human smuggling - say all there is to say about what is happening in our midst. Police authorities in Karachi recovered seven children from Shah Faisal Colony on the18th September; all the minors are between three years to five years of age and hail from Southern Punjab. Police also arrested three men and three women - the apparent motive of the group was to sell them in the Gulf States to be used as jockeys in camel races. This last event suggests that despite being a regular criminal activity, which requires elaborate international and domestic networking, the trade of children is still a thriving business.
The tradition of camel racing in the UAE is hundreds of years old but the sadistic and pre-meditated choice of innocent children as jockeys is a recent practice dating back to the early 70s. Initially the children were brought from Oman and Sudan, later, Arab sheiks began purchasing children from Pakistan as well. In the mid 70s, Arab sheiks who came to Cholistan desert for hunting took the liberty of expanding their choice of game to young nomadic children of this region in Pakistan, with the plan of either kidnapping or buying them from their poverty-stricken parents or guardians.
The daily, 'The Muslim', in its issue of 9th July 1992 reports that Senator Dr. Mohammad Rehan raised a question in the upper house of Parliament. He asked if it was true that," 19,000 children from Pakistan had been smuggled to the United Arab Emirates during the last three years, where most of them were being used as camel kids". In reply to this question the then Interior minister, Ch. Shujaat Hussain ordered an inquiry.
Now after eight years researchers and data compilers believe that around 40,000 kids from Pakistan alone were smuggled to take part in the Gulf States' popular camel race. In these races where millions of dirhams are at stake, the Arab Sheikhs, mostly from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, purchase children and force them to serve as camel jockeys. The child is strapped to the camel with a rope and the camel is whipped into a frenzy and races faster scared by the petrified shrieks of the frightened child. Children, fewer than seven years of age and weighing between 15 to 17 kilograms are preferred as jockeys. The younger and lighter the child, and the louder the screams of terror, the greater the speed of the camel. Many of children die before the race is over, either from fear or from being tossed by the animal or by being dragged to death after being dislodged from the security rope binding them to the animal.
As a result of the continued efforts of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) and other NGOs, the President of UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, introduced new laws in 1993 regarding the ban on the use of children as camel jockeys. But that seems to have little effect on the business, which, as is evident from the recent event of child smuggling, is still going on and the camel races are still going on in full force.
The real causes of most child-related crimes are in the lower socio-economic order of Pakistani society. Most of children are lured into this trap, because the parents are attracted by the prospect of a lucrative 'job' in the Gulf as a way out of their abject and hopeless poverty. It is very significant that almost always the recovered children belong either to Southern Punjab or the interior of Sindh - the most under-developed areas of the country.