Forced To Abandon Their Childhood
With brown hair and reddish eyes, he copes with the cold of Islamabad in a jacket, following the dictations of his master, running from one corner of the workshop to the other. Habibullah, from Darra Adamkhel, is now 11 years old. He shifted to Islamabad two years ago to become a mechanic at a workshop of one of his relatives in Kohat city.
“I was only four years old at the time,” he recalled, “I was with my grandmother when my parents along with one of my younger brothers were killed in a bomb blast in my hometown,” he pauses for some time while tears appear in his radish eyes.
Habibullah continued, “I was not aware at that time about the value of parents because I was a kid. But later, when people called me an orphan, I missed my parents so much but I can’t bring them back.”
He added that he was alone in his family and was supported by his uncle for some time. “My maternal grandparents shifted me to Kohat for some time. My paternal grandparents were also poor and they sent me to Islamabad to become a mechanic and become independent,” he said.
Regarding his salary, he added that he was not receiving any salary because he was a junior. “But the master gives me 200 rupees daily and last month, I sent 1500 rupees to my uncle so he could purchase clothes and shoes for me for Eid,” he continued, “The remaining money I save for myself,” he said.
Habibullah also expressed the wish that he would become an expert mechanic one day and would run his own shop.
He further added that he visited his relatives in Kohat and Darra Adam Khel every month and paid a visit to the graves of his parents and brother.
The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Labour Department has no proper statistics about the number of children employed in Islamabad nor have they carried out legal action against those violating the laws of child labour, an official of the department told Naya Daur on the condition of anonymity.
Abdul Ghaffor,13, hails from Chaman Baluchistan and has five siblings and an ailing father. He was only eight years of age when he traveled to Islamabad to work at a relative’s hotel as a waiter.
“At the age of six, my father became paralysed due to an unknown disease,” he remembered, adding, “At that time I was studying at a government school in my village and then my mother told me now it’s your responsibility to support your family.” He said that he had no other option but to quit his education to travel to Islamabad for work.
Ghaffor further added that at the time, his salary was Rs7000 but now it is Rs12,000. He said, “I send 10,000 to my family and the remaining 2000 I invest on myself.”
He said that he worked for 12 hours every day, serving tea and edibles to people while washing dishes when there aren’t many customers.
Regarding a question about the administration’s action against child labour, Ghaffor informed Naya Daur that in the past two years, no one had asked the hotel owner about the children that worked there.
It is important to mention that the children who come to work from other cities live in crowded rooms along with their other senior employees. Naya Daur attempted to find information about sexual harassment by seniors but no one responded.
The author is a reporter based in Islamabad.