When a child goes missing, time is of the essence. Mr. Muhammad Ali felt that.
In 2003, a young girl went missing and was later found murdered in Lyari. Mr. Muhammad Ali, a human rights activist, learnt of this incident, and realized:
- No one in the close-knit community of Lyari seemed to have noticed the girl being taken.
- There was no law for filing an FIR with the Police for a missing child
- The parents had no idea where to turn for help
When a child goes missing, time is of the essence. Mr. Muhammad Ali felt that if there was an organization where parents could report the missing child, and the local community could be rapidly mobilized to help in the search, the chances of safely recovering the child would be greatly increased.
This was the birth of Roshni Helpline.
After some initial success, we had 148 partners all over Lyari.
Starting in one part of Lyari, Mr. Muhammad Ali contacted the local paan shop, the small grocery store, the PCO (Public Call Office) operator, the milk seller, and other roadside vendors and persuaded them to collaborate with Roshni Helpline. As a first step, if a child went missing, they provided information to the parents about contacting Roshni Helpline.
These people also had information about all the comings and goings in their neighborhoods. It was simply a matter of making them aware that this information was invaluable, so they could track the child’s movement by pooling their knowledge.
After some initial success, we had 148 partners all over Lyari, and we streamlined our system so that posters about a missing child could be printed and distributed in a very short time.
Roshni Helpline later shifted to Saddar Town, and in 2010, we received our first small grant from a reputable international donor organization, with which we rented a small office and bought our first computer.
We continued to grow as an organization and expanded our network of volunteers, becoming the first organization in South Asia to collaborate with the Khwajasira transgender community in tracking missing children. So far, Roshni Helpline has trained 53 Gurus (heads of the Khwajasira transgender community) in Karachi, who in turn have trained their Chelas (followers) to keep a lookout for missing children at traffic signals and places that they usually frequent. At present, we have a diverse network of more than 4,000 volunteers and partners from all walks of life, spread throughout Karachi as well as other parts of Pakistan.