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Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Pakistan

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Pakistan, 2001, available at: [accessed 28 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 152,331,000
    – under-18s: 73,691,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 612,000
    – reserves: 513,000
    – paramilitary (active): 288,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 16; 18 for deployment in hostilities
  • Voting age (government elections): unknown
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government and opposition forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 16, but there is no evidence of their deployment. There is evidence that children, some under 14, have been recruited by armed groups fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir. Some internal armed groups are also known to have children in their ranks.


Pakistan's military plays a central role in politics and has staged a succession of coups, most recently in October 1999. Pakistan is engaged in an ongoing dispute with India about the status of Jammu and Kashmir, where groups seeking independence or accession to Pakistan have fought with Indian security forces (see India country profile). A number of armed groups active in Kashmir have bases in Pakistan and allegedly receive political and material support from the Pakistani government. Pakistan has supported a variety of armed groups engaged in Afghanistan's civil war. There has been periodic political violence in the province of Sindh, between parties drawing support among the indigenous Sindhi community and Mohajirs, the descendants of Muslims who migrated from India following the partition of the subcontinent; there has also been factional violence within the Sindhi nationalist and Mohajir movements themselves.1406 Since the early 1980s, there has been violence between extremist Sunni and Shia Muslim parties, especially in Punjab and in Sindh.1407


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 39 of the 1973 Constitution states that: "The State shall enable people from all parts of Pakistan to participate in the Armed Forces of Pakistan."1408 Conscription is not, however, currently practised in Pakistan.1409 The 1952 Pakistan Army Act does provide for the possible introduction of compulsory military service in times of emergency, but this provision has never been applied as sufficient volunteers have been enlisted into the armed forces.1410

According to Pakistan's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva in 1997, the legal enlistment age is between 17 and 22 for officers and between 16 and 25 for soldiers.1411 Information from the airforce indicates that fighter pilots are admitted for training from 16 years of age.1412 At the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers in Kathmandu in May 2000, the Pakistani Government representative said that while Pakistan recruited under-18s, it had adequate safeguards to ensure they were not involved in armed conflict.1413

During negotiations on the Optional Protocol, the Pakistan delegation pressed for 16 as the minimum age for voluntary recruitment and 17 for involvement in hostilities, but did not ultimately obstruct consensus.1414 The Pakistani Government representative at the Kathmandu conference said that Pakistan had some reservations about certain aspects of the Optional Protocol, but in deference to its spirit had welcomed its finalisation.1415 In a communication to the Coalition in April 2001, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that "the recruitment policy of the Government of Pakistan is in true letter and spirit of (the Optional Protocol), even though we are not signatory to it as yet. All clauses of Pakistan Armed Forces recruitment policy are in conformity with the Optional Protocol, the basic theme being that 'no soldier less than 18 years should be sent to participate in active hostilities'."1416

Military Training and Military Schools

There are a number of cadet colleges which admit children from the age of 10. The Pakistan Government states that these colleges are exclusively focused on academic pursuits and that no military training is imparted.1417 Students receive no stipend and are under no compulsion to join the Armed Forces upon graduation.1418 According to UNICEF: "the pupils are not considered as recruits of the army. After completing the schooling and attaining the age of 18 years, the individuals may or may not join the army."1419



A large refugee population and porous borders have made Pakistan a natural source of recruits for various armed groups involved in the neighbouring conflicts of Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir (See the India and Afghanistan entries for further information). Groups associated with Islamist and sectarian parties in Pakistan have also attracted children to their ranks,1420 but the degree to which they have participated in political violence to date is unclear.

Much attention has been paid to the role of informal Islamic schools or madradsas in recruiting children for political and military activities.1421 Many madrasas are legitimate, informal educational institutions, serving poor students with no alternative educational opportunities. There are no official figures regarding the number of madrasas in Pakistan; estimates vary between 15,0001422 and 25,000.1423 Some madrasas, however, are sponsored by political parties and factions and have emerged as centres for indoctrination, training and recruitment of young fighters for the armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Jammu and Kashmir. In February 2000, the Pakistan's Interior Minister claimed that "only one per cent" of the madrasas in Pakistan sent their students for training in Afghanistan.1424 In April 2000, he warned that sectarian parties were "spreading poison" and "polluting the minds" of children: "All their madrasas, inappropriate literature, weapons and their activities will be stopped."

The Pakistan Government is reportedly working on a draft law to regulate and monitor these schools. The establishment of a Religious Educational Board has been proposed,1425 but the Islamist groups that sponsor some madrasas will be reluctant to accept state control. Similar moves to tighten blasphemy laws were dropped after fierce opposition.1426 Through its administration of zakat tithes the Pakistan Government is an important conduit of financial support to the madrasas, but many of the schools have independent sources of income and links to international Islamist networks.1427

Amnesty International has reported cases of forced recruitment of children through madrasas in Pakistan to fight in Afghanistan. In July 1997 the father of 13-year-old Maroof Ahmad Awan filed a petition in the Sindh High Court in Karachi, Pakistan, accusing the principal of the local Jamia Islamia of sending his son to fight in Afghanistan without consulting the parents. The father said: "I handed him over to the school to learn the Qur'an, not to handle guns. He is too young to fight in a war." Maroof joined the school in early May and was missing for several weeks until school authorities admitted he had left, supposedly of his own volition, to fight in Afghanistan." A month after the petition was submitted the boy returned saying "I was persuaded to go to Afghanistan by the nazim of the school."1428 According to Amnesty International some 600 other juveniles were taken in buses to Afghanistan on the same day. The father withdrew his petition after the Pakistan police registered a criminal case, although no investigation was made and no one was arrested.1429

UN sources reported further recruitment of children from madrasas in the summer of 1999 when the Taleban launched a major recruitment drive in expectation of a new offensive (see Afghanistan entry).1430 During a visit to Pakistan in November 2000, Coalition representatives were told that madrasas aligned with different factions periodically close and dispatch young students to Afghanistan; they are reportedly not often used on the frontline but rather to free more experienced fighters for the front.1431 While some of these recruits undoubtedly become long-term soldiers, many return after one or two months. Veterans of Afghanistan often become involved in armed Islamist and sectarian movements active in Pakistan itself (see section below).

In relation to the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, sources in Pakistan suggest that some armed groups might identify prospective recruits at 15 or 16 (often from poor and disadvantaged families), but they are generally over 18 by the time they infiltrate Indian territory or engage in operations. In May 1999 Reuters reported on 250 young recruits at a Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistani-held Kashmir: "All are Pakistanis from villages and small towns in Punjab and the North Western Frontier Province.... The training is divided into three stages: 21 days of small weapons training, wilderness skills and fitness. The boys are then sent home, where they are monitored by party elders to see if they are spiritually and physically fit enough to continue."1432

See country entries on India and Afghanistan for further information on child participation in these conflicts.


  • Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM)

The MQM represents the Mohajir community politically, but its factions have engaged in periodic violence with nationalist groups drawn from the indigenous Sindhi community. The number of fighters is not known, but are reportedly split between the original MQM, (MQM-Altaf), a large breakaway group (MQM-Haqiqi), and other smaller factions. It is believed that the MQM factions have under-18s in their ranks. Human Rights Watch reported in 1999 that "on August 12 [1998], unidentified gunmen shot Mohajir men, including one sixteen-year-old, who was the only one to survive. Later that evening nine Muttahida activists, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-two, were killed and five were injured by unknown gunmen."1433 The degree to which activists under 18 are engaged in armed conflict is unclear as many such killings take place in disputed circumstances.

  • Jeay Sind Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM)

JSQM is the leading Sindhi nationalist movement. There is no available information on the recruitment and use of child soldiers by this group.

  • Sectarian Groups

The Shia movement Tehrik Nifaz-e-Fiqah-e-Jafria (TNJF) and Sunni groups Sipah-e Muhammad and Sepah-e-Sahaba are engaged in sectarian violence, primarily in Punjab and Sindh. After the death of its leader in 1983 the TNJF split into two factions, the more radical and pro-Iranian transforming into a political party, the Tehrik Jafria Pakistan (TJP). Although no information is available on the participation of children in these groups, their sectarian cause could be attractive to young people. The Coalition was told during a visit to Pakistan in November 2000 that children were recruited to these groups from sponsored madrasas or from amongst returning veterans of conflicts in Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir. In October 1999, the Pakistan Government complained about Afghan training and support for sectarian groups in Pakistan.1434

1406 Balencie and de La Grange op. cit.; HRW Report 1999 and 2000.

1407 RB,; Balencie and de La Grange, op. cit., p. 758.

1408 Blaustein and Flanz, op. cit.

1409 Statement by the representative of Pakistan during the January 1997 meeting of the UN Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. E/CN.4/1997/96, para. 59.

1410 Horeman and Stolwijk, op. cit.

1411 Communication from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to QUNO, 16/12/97.

1412 Pakistan airforce website.

1413 Statement by representative of Pakistan Government to the Asia-Pacific Conference on the Use of Children as Soldiers, Kathmandu, May 2000.

1414 UN Doc. E/CN.4/1997/96, op. cit. para. 59; also UN Doc. E/CN.4/1998/102, op. cit. paras. 40 and 73.

1415 Statement to Asia-Pacific Conference op. cit.

1416 Communication from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad to CSC on 2/4/01.

1417 Ibid.

1418 Information provided to CSC by the Pakistan Government, 5/00.

1419 Information provided by UNICEF, 11/6/99; RB://>.

1420 "Inside Jihad" by Zahid Hussain, Newsline, 2/01 and also quoting Far Eastern Economic Review, 7/9/00.

1421 Spillius, A., "Seminaries churn out warriors for Kashmir", op. cit. See also, Rashid, A; Taleban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, UK, 2000; Dawn, "Religious Schools Battle for Image., 7/12/99; Dawn, "Religious Students Rush to Afghanistan,. 10/8/98; Newsline, "Young Guns., 9/97; The News, "Edge of the Extreme., 24/1/97;.

1422 Chandran, S., "Madrassas in Pakistan – I. Madrassas a brief review", Article No. 314, 25/1/00, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi,

1423 Spillius, A. op. cit.

1424 Baruah, A., "Pakistan bans display of arms", The Hindu, 17/2/00.

1425 Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad. 2/4/01.

1426 Zaidi, M., "Pakistan drafting law on madrassas regulation", The Hindustan Times, 2/2/00; Chandran, S., "Madrassas in Pakistan-II. Breeding ground for Islamic militants?., op. cit; CNN.Com, 14/4/00.

1427 Information provided by HRW, 4/00.

1428 AI, Children in South Asia Securing Their Rights, Report ASA 04/01/98. Information taken from articles published in the Pakistani Daily Dawn, 12/8/97 and the monthly magazine Newsline, 9/97.

1429 Ibid.

1430 See UN document S/PV.4037, Provisional Verbatim of Security Council debate on children and armed conflict, 25/8/99 and AFP 2/12/99.

1431 See also "Child soldiers for Taleban? Unlikely. by Scott Peterson,Christian Science Monitor, 6/12/99.

1432 "Pakistani holy warriors kill for Kashmir", Reuters, 2/5/99.

1433 HRW Report 1999, op. cit.

1434 The Independent (Bangladesh), 13/10/99; CNN, 7/12/99.

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