Child Slavery in
Pakistan: 20,000 Children with Small Heads Are Run by the Shrines for
Malik Ayub Sumbal
No one knows about the reality and sad saga of these greenish veiled
individuals with shaved heads carried by their masters with a chain
about their necks to get the sympathies of the masses for the sake of
The worst form of slavery in the name of religious tradition has become
a common practice in Pakistan as no law nor authority is ready to save
these enforced mentally retarded slaves from their cruel masters and the
In Pakistan, where such examples of the worst inhuman attitudes and
behaviors are a routine matter, no one dares to shed their tears on
these issues. Slavery has been banned throughout the world, but still,
in Pakistan, human beings are forced to be slaves for the shameful acts
of the inhuman and brutal mafia in the country.
There is now a worst form of slavery: having an inane and so-called
spiritual myth to tell the people to acquire more commiseration and
money in the name of these innocent people who have been paralyzed by
this mafia in a brutal manner.
There are very strange individuals in Pakistan associated with a shrine
of Pir Shah Daula in Gujrat, a saint of the Suhrawardi school of
thought. During the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb, Shah Daula in Gujrat is
said to have the power to punish disobedient parents in the shape of
children with small heads (micro encephalic children). These children
are the property of the shrines in different parts of the country and
are called the “Rats of Shah Daula.”
Scores of worshippers and followers of Pir Daula Shah, especially barren
women who beg for children, come to the saint invoking his blessings for
the fulfillment of their wishes. The first born, usually with a very
small head, is called the “Mouse of Shah Daula” and is offered to work
as a servant at the shrine. Subsequent births produce normal children.
According to a centuries-old tradition and followers’ beliefs, barren
women who worship at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Daula will become
fertile. However, unless they donate their first-born child to the
shrine as an oblate, all their subsequent children will be born
Claims are made that the tradition has been used as the foundation for a
trade in the donated children, who are deliberately disfigured and sold
to professional beggars by the shrine’s guardians, although the shrine
is now controlled by the government of Pakistan.
It has been claimed that the defacements are caused by a genetic
abnormality, but studies show that the children are unrelated to each
other. There may be as many as 20,000 of these children, mostly in
Punjab Province and the city of Gujrat.
One such example of gross human rights violations perpetrated in the
name of religion on ignorant people who are so superstitious is that,
upon fulfillment of their wishes, they leave their children on the
premises of a tomb. The heads of these innocent children are then donned
with steel helmets to restrict their growth, and they are subsequently
used for begging in various parts of the country.
These children are trained for the sake of begging and then are rented
out in the hands of the beggar’s mafia in the country. This phenomenon
has been taking place for several decades, but there is no law in the
country to control this practice.
A police officer in the city of Rawalpindi, Azhar Hameed Khokhar, when
asked about the issue of these enforced baggers, said, “We are taking
action against these elements according to the Beggars Act, and no one
will be above the law.”
The government of Pakistan and the authorities are helpless though in
front of the influential child traffickers in the country.
According to senior experts and some human rights activists in the
country, there is a strong need for stern action by the government
against this inhumanity that is being committed by these people who are
In addition to these unlucky children that have been forcefully enslaved
and used in mischievous activities by the gangsters and mafias, there
are scores of children every year smuggled into the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) from Pakistan to work as camel jockeys.
Pakistan was considered to be a hub of child trafficking a few years
ago; but after the strong efforts by human rights organizations,
international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media, the
government tried to repatriate these trafficked children from the UAE.
According to sources and after collecting facts and figures between 2002
and 2010, almost 1,000 children have been trafficked to the UAE from the
southern Punjab and northern Sindh areas with the majority of the
children coming from Rahim Yar Khan, a backward district of Punjab.
The government of Pakistan, after the issue was highlighted by NGOs and
the media, managed to repatriate all these children; and in June 2010,
the last trafficked child came back home.
There are several NGOs working against child trafficking in Pakistan,
but they are unable to attain successful results as there are
differences among the statistics complied by the impendent sources and
* Malik Ayub Sumbal is a freelance investigative journalist based in
Islamabad working for the foreign media and can be contacted by e-mail
* The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is a regional
non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights
issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. More
information is available on AHRC’s web site at <http://www.ahrchk.net/index.php>.