Shifting gears: Senate session to focus on human rights

Published: December 28, 2015
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PHOTO: INP

PHOTO: INP

ISLAMABAD: Following a year of drafting critical legislations, the government now seems to be focusing on projecting a softer international image – at least in the sphere of human rights. With the controversial cybercrime bill still pending in parliament, the government has promised to bring the internationally acclaimed Right to Information Bill in the upcoming legislative session.

Also on the cards in the Senate session starting today is a bill on compulsory vaccination of children and protection of healthcare workers. Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq is scheduled to move the Islamabad Compulsory Vaccination and Protection of Health of Health Workers Bill, 2015.

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This apparent shift in the nature of legislations coincides with the upcoming review of Pakistan GSP+ status in the European Union.

One out of every 10 Pakistani children dies before reaching his fifth birthday. A large percentage of these children die of diseases that can be prevented through vaccination.

“Vaccination coverage in the country remains abysmally low despite a government-run vaccination programme running since 1978 to provide free-of-charge services against fatal and disability-causing infectious diseases,” states Senator Ayesha in the bill.

Official statistics reveal billions of rupees are invested into the programme every year besides millions of dollars pouring in from international donors. Pakistan has an annual birth cohort of 5.7 million children and it has been the largest recipient of international support to date with over $842 million committed till 2019.

The bill proposes making immunisation compulsory for every child by involving a range of persuasive measures, including preconditions to issuance of NADRA B-form and admission to schools. The proposed law intends to establish immunisation as a norm in society through caregivers, health providers and heads of learning institutions of children, responsible to ensure that a child is fully protected against all diseases.

The bill also aims to safeguard society against propaganda, which not only misleads parents and their influencers causing irreversible, lifelong disabilities, besides inciting violence against health workers.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2015.

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