Child labour in Pakistan: They have dreams like ours

Published: May 1, 2012

Child labour refers to work done by children that harms them or exploits them either physically or mentally. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) defines a ‘child’ as anyone below the age of 18, and ‘child labour’ as any form of work performed by children below age 18.

On the way to university, a few days ago, I observed many children working in the streets of Quetta. Most of them were boys, between the age of 10 to 14. They were carrying an assortment of goods like paper, plastic, wood and pieces of metal in bags in order to sell these.

Looking at these children who should be playing, studying and enjoying their childhood, I felt deeply saddened. I decided to interview a few of them to gauge what their life is like. While I made some startling discoveries from children who worked day in and day out in order to survive, there were also those responses that left me heart-broken.

Main gareeb hun aur gareeb ki koe khwahish nhain.’

(I am poor, and poor people don’t have desires.)

This was the response from a young child when I asked him what his desires are.

I feel that today, on Labour Day,  we should be giving attention to these poor children, who have now become part of the work force of Pakistan. Do they not deserve a childhood like yours and mine?

While government officials enjoy the luxury of their air-conditioned rooms, children like Noor Allah struggle all day in the heat to provide for their families.

According to the UNICEF, up to 10 million children are estimated to be working in Pakistan

Article 25a in the Constitution of Pakistan reads:

The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to 16 years in such manner as may be determined by law

I believe that this is the only solution to eradicate child labour in Pakistan. I hope that the government takes notice and ends the plight of these children.

Read more by Qaisar here or follow him on Twitter @qasirroonjha                                                                                                                                             

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Qaisar Roonjha

A young activist who uses citizen media as tool for raising awareness. He has won many prestigious awards like the Global Creative Art Contest and the Honour of Global Change-makers by the British Council. He is based in Lasbela. He tweets @QRoonjha (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Iqbal Zaheer Baloch

    We are really Proud of U…………Dear Qaisar Jan May Allah give u more successRecommend

  • Rahila Baloch

    Dear Qaisar,

    You have done wonderful job,yea we have to work for this part of society as well.

    I appreciate your efforts.

    Regards Recommend

  • Humna Baloch

    You could write more on this topic. I don’t know why you chose to write few words. As far as child labor is concerned; your article is not that much descriptive. Please take this as healthy criticism & advice your friends to support for cause not for the blog.Recommend

  • Khalil Roonjah

    Dear Qaisir Excellent Recommend

  • http://Youputitinaverygoodwords,Ilikeit. Shaida Batool,

    You put it in a very good words, I like it.Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    After age 18 there will be no job for them to feed themself.

    In USA or UK when a child work, they call it internship and when our children works it is called as child labour.

    Children are working and feeding themself and their families, it should be not a problem, they are not able to get formal education, this should be a problem,.

    By getting initial certificates like matric, fsc, etc alone, no one is able to get good job neither they are able to work in labour industry because they start thinking themself unfit for the labour market.At the same time, they waste 16 to 17 precious years of their life, as after these years, these children will be forced to do these works again.

    Solution: Introduce vocational skill in Matric , fsc along with Maths and english / urdu reading writing skills. instead of chemistry, physics and biology. With chemistry, physics and bio, no one is able to work in the field unless get bachelors and master degrees. This can bring interest in education and poor families will also try to send their children to school to learn something valuable.

  • Uzair

    Overpopulation is Pakistan’s number 1 problem. It is all too easy to bring children into the world, but not so easy to give them a good environment and the necessities of life. It is all about taking responsibility. Unfortunately our social ethos is that we humans DON’T have to take responsibility for our children – these are the wages of following dogma rather than intelligent reasoning. Until this ethos continues we shall see millions of children starve and suffer.Recommend

  • Shahbaz lodhi

    Great efforts you put all your energy to highlight this burning issue since been discussing an early period, be a true Pakistani every sincere & true person fell the agony that you have . well done & hats off to those hard workers of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    There is more population in China than Pakistan, but with planning, china is improving while Pakistan is going backward.Recommend

  • Uzair

    @Usman Shahid: Re China: Planning and education and above all they have far more land area and resources than we do. Nevertheless they are still pursuing the most aggressive population control program in the history of humanity. Your example only strengthens my case for population planning. There is ALWAYS a limit to the number of people a country or a planet can support. The question is: what is this limit. If we agree that an infinite number of people can not be supported, then sooner or later the population growth rate will be checked, either through painless and peaceful means, or through famine, war, disease, and general strife.Recommend

  • m. Qasim

    good, agree with uRecommend

  • m qasim

    good i m agree with uRecommend

  • Saurabh Singh

    I appreciate the author’s concern for these lost little souls. The condition in South Asia is pathetic as far as the problem of child labour is concerned. In India around 60 million children are estimated to be child labour and this figure in Pakistan is quoted as 10 million in the above article. This horrifying state of affairs is also seen in other South Asian Countries.

    Famous Indian NGOs like Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Global March Against Child Labour have worked extensively in South Asian Region to eliminate child labour. Dedicated efforts of these organization is the only solution to this problem.

    Saurabh Singh Recommend

  • Jan Mohammad

    Dear Qaiser

    wonderful effort you are really inspiration for us. may Allah bless you and give us the power to overcome these all challenges…Recommend

  • Shaukat Channan

    Dear Qaiser,

    You have done wonderful job……Please keep it doing good work and keep moving on……I wish you success in your life……Recommend

  • alina

    if the poor people don’t have any desires, then i shouldn’t have a single desires at all. why are we so unsatisfied with our lives? i feeel so ashamed.

    the boys line just broke my heart :( such deeply humble kids with soo much potential going to waste. i hope pakistan some day makes there future better and happier. InshallahRecommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Today child labour has changed its form, I have made the drawing of current type of child labour.

    Kindly have a look at it and let me know, what do you say

    or at

  • Madhubhashini Rathnayaka

    A sensitive but should talk problem all over the world you are trying to figure out. Salute you. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely written and so true.
    Article 25a of the Constitution means nothing as it does not concern our leaders. Recommend

  • Sofia

    Proud of U Qaiser !Recommend

  • Ashar

    Good article on labour day. 100% chance of publication. The comments seems stereotyped. why?Recommend

  • http://Islamabad Mangoman

    What do you mean by * They have dreams like ours*

    They are also human beings!!!Recommend

  • Sane

    A good write indeed. My dear! yes the problem is known, but anybody may come up with a solution without looking at the government, as they are least concerned with any issue of a commoner. We need to do ourselves.Recommend

  • Tanveer Awan

    My Dear Brother Qaiser you are a great man, you have done wonderful job. Recommend