11-year-old Abu Dawood has the same desires and dreams like other children to go to school. However, forced by cruel poverty his parents send him to auto-workshop to earn bread and butter for his family. He works 9 hours daily on Rs 50 per daily wages at Mingora city in Swat.

13-year old Hamza, son of a rickshaw driver, renounced his studies and started to work at a auto-workshop and drives rickshaw in the evening in order to support his father in meeting domestic expenses.

Unfortunately, Abu Dawood and Hamza are not only the child labourers. 3,670 kids are working in mechanical workshops in the city, 670 in manufacturing industries. Furthermore, there are millions of child labourers in the country.

Amid other reasons, the main reasons for child labour are poverty, non-conductive environment, lack of motivation and lack of interest of the concerned government machinery.

The fact is that child labour is a serious crime in all over the world, but in Pakistan the menace still looms at large. Pakistan, after Mauritania and Haiti, ranks third in the world with the highest prevalence of child and forced labour. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates reveal that the number of child labour has declined worldwide from 200 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2014.

Pakistan government has not conducted a fresh child labour survey after 1996, which has created hurdles in making accurate estimates of children working in different sectors in the country. The National Child Labour Survey 1996 estimated the number of child labourers to be 3.3 million (boys 73 percent and girls 27 percent). While according to The Global Slavery Index 2013, The ILO estimated in a 2012 survey that 12.5 million children are employed in Pakistan. The UNICEF estimates the figure at 10 million and the Child Rights Movement maintains 9.86 million child labourers exist in the country.

Poor parents, who do not send their children to schools and force them to work at their tender age in order to support family, are responsible not only for spoiling lives of their children but also for causing disorder and chaos in social order. Regrettably, most of the child labourers get involved in criminal activities like robbery, extortion, drug trafficking and militancy. They are often sexually harassed, especially by senior co-workers.

Article 11 (3) of Pakistan’s Constitution prohibits slavery, trafficking and the participation of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or any other hazardous employment. The Shops & Establishments Ordinance 1969 prohibits employment of a child below 14 years in any establishment (shop, commercial establishment, industrial establishment, private dispensary, maternity home, hotel, restaurant, cinema, theater, circus or other place of public entertainment, etc).

It is clear that for the prevention of child labour legal frame work exists in the country, but the problem is with implementation. The Article and the Ordinance is violated on large scale in all over the country with no fear of punishment. You will find a great number of children working in factories, mines, and establishments because child labour is not considered to be a criminal act.

Education, along with textbooks, is provided free of cost to students from Class 1 to Class 10, enrolled in public sector schools in all over the country. In spite of that, the poor parents are reluctant to educate their children. They think that government will not give jobs to their children on merit and so why should they send their children to school? Even after wasting years, they will work as a labour with us. The parents consider only the economic aspect of education but not also its social, political, and civic aspects.

Child labour is financially beneficial for owners of factories, mines, and establishments. Children are exploited by the owners for children are taken more work and are paid low wages or salaries. This is sheer violation of child rights. The violators are liable to be dealt harshly.

To have actual figures, child labourers and to work out effective laws to curb child abuse and to ensure provision of fundamental rights to children, child labour survey without delay is to be conducted by the government. Pakistan is a party to many conventions that prohibit child abuse, but the practice is still a reality in the country. This is a tragic situation, which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis.