The quality of education and health conditions of children determine whether they will be an asset or dead weight for the state. And it is the responsibility of the state to protect basic rights of children. At the moment, in Pakistan, children are in the most vulnerable position. Due to a lack of interest and will of the state machinery, they experience crises in all provinces.

But Balochistan, the largest province of the country, is the biggest hub of challenges being faced by children. The violation of children’s rights hits the highest point in the province. It is pertinent to mention that in this precarious situation, the provincial and the federal governments only make hollow political statements when there are no sincere or concrete measures to solve the issue.

Illiteracy

In this era of Information Technology, it is impossible for any nation or region to develop in any field if it has a large army of uneducated youth. It is a bitter reality that Balochistan is the most backward province in terms of education. Recent estimates indicate that in Balochistan literacy rate stands at only 35.16% (male 42.60%, female 21.66%). The vital factors for the educational backwardness are acute shortage of schools, school buildings, and lack of facilities at schools. The federal government has been only beating drums about making Balochistan prosperous, but no pragmatic initiative has been taken for its prosperity and development. If the government really wants to bring change in the province, first of all it must bring about development in the education sector.

Child Labour

The widespread prevalence of poverty is the main factor for the ever growing child labour in the province. To support their families, children are forced to work at an early age. It is observed that in Balochistan, children mostly work at construction sites, coalmines, garbage collectors and automobile workshops. However, child labour is detrimental for children mentally, physically, morally and socially. It also involves the serious issue of the sale and trafficking of children. According to The ILO’s reports 2013, 500 children were working in coalmine in Loralai district only and Society for Empowering Human Resources (SEHR) estimated that 10,000 are child labourers in Quetta. Regrettably, the provincial government has been turning a blind eye to the issue. Still it has not introduced the law to exterminate or control child labour in the province. 

Malnutrition

However, malnutrition is a worldwide issue affecting the majority of the population. Balochistan, like Sindh, despite having been bestowed with plentiful natural resources, is unfortunately among the world’s most nutritionally deprived regions. Reports reveal that 10 out of 20 food insecure districts of Pakistan are in Balochistan. It is significant to mention here that no other factor, but poverty alone, is the single contributor to illiteracy, food insecurity, and substandard food leading to malnutrition in the province. Malnutrition causes troubles and tribulations and finally leads to different deadly diseases among malnourished babies and mothers. It is the responsibility of the incumbent government to take sincere initiatives under Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy to launch nutrition programme to every nook and corner of the province to resolve the issue to whatever extent possible.

Polio Virus

During a three-day anti-polio campaign that was started on April 25, 2016, in Balochistan at least 1.3 million children below the age of five were vaccinated against the crippling polio virus. According to Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Balochistan Coordinator Dr Saifur Rehman the IPV programme remained successful across the province, particularly in high-risk districts where more than 240,000 children had been injected against the crippling polio virus. In fact, this is the first time that such a number of children have been vaccinated in the high-risk areas. Otherwise, the toughest challenge always faced by vaccinators during campaign against polio in 15 high risk districts of the province was parents’ refusal to get their children vaccinated against the crippling disease.  Pakistan Demographic Health Survey reported that in January, 2016 there had been 2,821 refusal cases in the province.  The main reasons behind parents’ refusals are illiteracy and lack of awareness about detrimental repercussions of their refusals of administering polio drops to their children. Until and unless the parents become willing to administer the drops to their children, the issue will exist leading to the loss of precious lives of children. To eliminate polio virus from the province, the provincial government has to make fruitful efforts by acquiring the services of experts to initiate social mobilization strategy in order to convince these people.

Child Marriages

Although child marriage is a global issue, yet its prevalence is high in Pakistan. Like Sindh, KP, and Punjab, the tradition of child marriages persists in Balochistan immensely due to various causes such as lack of implementation of laws, tribal and feudal structure of society, extreme poverty and lack of awareness in the masses about detrimental repercussions of child marriages. In Balochistan, children are married at an early age. Approximately 22 percent boys and 63 percent girls are married before the age of 18 years.

Recently, the issue of early age marriages was discussed in a consultative seminar organized by the Society for Empowering Human Resource in collaboration with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and Aurat Foundation in a local hotel of Quetta. Different people belonging to different walks of life expressed differing views about marriageable age of girls. The age factor has become the most controversial topic over the country.  

​Mr. Kohli who had drafted the Prohibit Solemnization of Child Marriages Bill, argued that a mature girl can be a better mother and wife and raise her family in a better way.

Mr Muhammad Haroon Dawood, Director of Aurat Foundation, said that minimum age of marriage for girls should be considered from both medical and psychological standpoint.

Molana Anwaar ul Haq Haqqani, a renowned religious scholar, said that Islam does not demand that girls should always be married at an early age.

According to my point of view, all people including medical experts, religious scholars, psychologists, human rights activists and have to settle this issue collectively.

This is a fact that low literacy rate, unbridled incidents of child marriages, existence of crippling the polio virus, ever growing problem of child labour, and innocent life engulfing malnutrition are the challenges confronted upon by Balochistan and require stanch efforts  to get rid of them.

Following the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the responsibility of solving the issue of rights of children was devolved to the provinces and resources were transferred to the provinces. Moreover, the laws and policies related to the rights of children have been introduced by the provinces but the problem is with the implementation.  At the moment, what needs to be done is to bring the issue under consideration seriously and to bring about effective mechanism of implementation by the provincial government of Balochistan.