Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 149.9 million (72.3 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 620,000
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 17 (16 technical services only)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: signed 26 September 2001
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 182

The minimum voluntary recruitment age was 17 although under-18s were not permitted to participate in hostilities. Pakistani armed political groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e Muhammad, engaged in fighting Indian government forces in Jammu and Kashmir, reported that they had recruited as many as five thousand boys from Pakistan in 2003.


President Pervez Musharraf continued as head of state and chief of army staff following a referendum in April 2002, and retained sweeping powers under constitutional amendments the same year. The government supported the US-led "war on terrorism", and hundreds of people were arrested, arbitrarily detained and handed over to US officials on suspicion of being members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban.1 Pakistan declared a ceasefire in Kashmir in November 2003, India doing the same shortly afterwards, and peace talks on the armed conflict in Jammu and Kashmir began in February 2004.2 Human rights abuses against women, children and religious minorities continued to be ignored by the government. At least 278 people were sentenced to death and at least eight were executed in 2003.3


National recruitment legislation and practice

The 1973 constitution says "The State shall enable people from all parts of Pakistan to participate in the Armed Forces of Pakistan" (Article 39).4 The Pakistan National Service Ordinance of 1970 regulates national service. It states that officers and jawans (soldiers) may be recruited between the ages of 17 and 23, although they must have at least a year's training before participating in active service. Those in technical services, such as signals and nursing, may be recruited between the ages of 16 and 23.5 The 1952 Pakistan Army Act allows compulsory military service to be introduced in times of emergency, but this provision has not been used.6

There were no statistics on the number of under-18s serving in government armed forces.

Military training and military schools

A number of cadet colleges admit children from the age of ten. The government has said that the colleges are focused exclusively on academic pursuits and that no military training is provided.7 The pupils are not considered members of the army and may choose whether or not to join the armed forces after completing schooling and attaining the age of 18.8 The minimum entrance age to Pakistan's higher military academies was not known.

Detention of children

The authorities targeted a number of children because they were related to suspected al-Qaeda members. The sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly a leading member of al-Qaeda, were reportedly arrested by Pakistani security forces during a raid on an apartment in Karachi in March 2003 and held at an undisclosed location. Subsequently, the boys, aged seven and nine, were reported to have been transferred to custody in the USA. US authorities denied that the boys were in the custody of US officials, either in the USA or elsewhere, or that they had been interrogated by US officials, and reportedly declined to comment when asked about their whereabouts. In another case, a 14-year-old boy was reportedly wounded in a gunfight in October 2003 and detained in Rawalpindi. The youngest son of a man suspected of links with the al-Qaeda leadership, he was said to have been paralysed as a result of injuries he received during the attempt to arrest his father.9

Armed political groups

Pakistani armed political groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e Muhammad, engaged in fighting Indian government forces in Jammu and Kashmir, said they had recruited 3,350 and 2,235 boys respectively from Pakistan in 2003, although few individual cases were documented in detail.10 A boy arrested by Indian government forces in June 2002 said he was 15 when the Lashkar-e-Taiba recruited him from his school in Bahawalpur in late 2001, promising that if he died his family would be rich and he would be a martyr and hero. "But I didn't have to die, I had to kill", he was reported as saying.11

There were some indications of the continuing role of some madrasas (Islamic schools) in the recruitment of 15 to 18 year olds for political activities, including possible participation in armed groups.12 A 2002 World Bank Country Assistance Strategy report said that an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of madrasas in Pakistan were involved in military-related teaching and training. Officials in Afghanistan were reported as saying that members of the Taliban continued to recruit students from madrasas in Pakistan to join militias fighting the Afghan transitional government.13 A prayer leader from a madrasa in Rawalpindi said he helped raise an army of 300 "holy warriors" for Afghanistan in four months in 2003.14

Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)

No official program exists for the DDR of children involved with armed groups. In October 2003 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged Pakistan to take effective measures to ensure that children below the age of 18 years were not involved in hostilities. It recommended that the government develop a comprehensive system for the reintegration and recovery of children who have participated in hostilities, in collaboration with non-governmental and international organizations.15

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 Amnesty International Reports 2003 and 2004,

2 BBC News, "Timeline: Pakistan",

3 Amnesty International, op. cit.

4 Constitution,

5 Second periodic report of Pakistan to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/65/Add.21, 11 April 2003,

6 B. Horeman and M. Stolwijk, Refusing to Bear Arms: A World Survey of Conscription and Conscientious Objection to Military Service, War Resisters International, London, 1998,

7 Communication from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2 April 2001.

8 Child Soldiers Coalition partners, Pakistan, 11 June 1999.

9 Amnesty International, Open Letter to President Pervez Musharraf, 3 February 2004, http://web.

10 M. Shehzad, "Jihad recruitment is on the rise", Friday Times, 29 July 2003.

11 S. Chakravarty, "Confessions of captured Fidayeen", India Today, 1 December 2003, php/20031201105130880.

12 International Crisis Group, Pakistan: Madrasas, extremism and the military, Asia Report No. 36, 29 July 2002,

13 R. Yusufzai, "And the 'Jihad' goes on", The News, 9 February 2003; Dawn, "New law soon to monitor seminaries", 6 November 2003.

14 M. Shehzad, op. cit.

15 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Pakistan, UN Doc. CRC/C/Add.217, 27 October 2003.


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