You can report cases to Roshni Helpline at 1138
Who among us has not received a forwarded message or viral photo of a missing child and forwarded it on out of goodwill? This is how misinformation about missing children spreads, creating hurdles for those working to solve these cases. Roshni Helpline, a civil society organisation working solely on missing children cases, hopes to curb that misinformation through its new Bacha Finder app.
The mobile application is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and is available for free on the Google Play store.
The app will show users district cases on a daily basis with details about the child’s name, age, city and date the child went missing on.
You can even put up new cases and upload an image after permission from the family, explained Adeel Chaudry, CEO of STech.ai, the company that developed the app.
“A lot of resources are wasted when cases that have already been solved go viral,” Chaudry said.
The app will help verify the cases and report them to Roshni Helpline on their number 1138. Users can also report any unattended children.
Bacha Finder is available in both Urdu and English and the organisation plans to add more regional languages.
In the first six months of this year, nearly 500 children went missing or were abducted according to Sahil, an organisation working to tackle child abuse in Pakistan.
“Prosecution is one of the most difficult steps in child abuse cases”, said Muhammad Ali, a social worker who is also the president of Roshni Helpline.
The current legislature for child rights in the province, the Sindh Child Protection Act 2011, has no clause for missing children, Ali added.
The law department has prepared an amendment, which will be added to the law, Advisor to Chief Minister Sindh on Law and Environment and Spokesperson Sindh Murtaza Wahab reassured Ali.
“The government will get it passed in the next assembly session,” said Wahab.
The Sindh government will also talk to truckers, oil marketing companies and the water board to implement Roshni’s truck art initiative for missing children, he added.
The Truck Art Childfinder is an initiative launched by the CSO last year where faces of missing children were painted on the backs of loading trucks that would travel around the country and raise awareness.
Another initiative the Sindh government spokesperson suggested was assigning one prosecutor in every district solely to child protection cases.
He also asked people to call 15, the Madadgar Helpline of the Sindh Police, to immediately register missing children cases.
“Since this is automated, the police can’t say they weren’t informed sooner,” Murtaza said.
He said this while speaking about the case of the missing minor girl Marwa. Men in Gulshan-e-Iqbal’s PIB Colony had raped and murdered the five-year-old, leaving her body in a garbage can. It took 11 hours for the parents to inform the police, Wahab said.
It will take a coordinated effort to recover these children, said Anti-Violence Crime Cell SSP Abdullah Ahmad.
He said the Bacha Finder app would go a long way to curb disinformation and misinformation and help the police directly.
There have been 65 cases of missing children registered in Karachi in the past two months, of which 55 were recovered, the SSP stated.
“Our assessment shows that Korangi and Landhi were at the top of the list of missing children cases,” said Ali. “This year District West has the highest cases.”
The Roshni Helpline president said that this doesn’t, however, mean that the situation is worse in these areas but reporting of cases has increased.
He attributed the increased reporting to a network of street vendors in Lyari that Roshni had worked to establish since 2003. The network also includes 2,000 transgender people, citizen volunteers and social workers.
“We will replicate this in Punjab,” Ali said, adding that police training will be started from Kasur.
Multiple cases of child abuse and rape have been reported in Kasur ever since the case of rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari in 2018.
Amin Ansari, Zainab’s father, told SAMAA Digital that the situation had not improved at all in Kasur. He said the courts needed to hand out harsher punishments to perpetrators and the police needed to be more vigilant and accessible before a change could be seen.