Advocate Anees Gillani said that a private member’s bill allows parliament to stop child labour in any sector -- the key is political will to execute the powers of the bill. He said this while appearing on last night’s Express 24/7 show Witness with Quatrina Hosain.
Hosain, who started her show with the grim narrative of a six year old child-maid who was murdered by her employers earlier this week in Lahore, only because she urinated on the floor.
Hosain hosted Farah Naz Ispahani, an MNA with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and a member of the Standing Committee on Human Rights, Foreign Affairs, Information and Broad. She was joined by Bushra Gohar, an MPA with the ANP in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa. The third guest was Adv. Anees Gillani.
Gillani pointed out that while there was no outright law that banned child labour in Pakistan, there was a private member’s bill that was passed in 1991 that allowed parliament to include sectors in which child labour would be illegal. The bill in question was proposed by Sartaj Aziz and has a simple working. If there is any sector in which one wants child labour to be stopped, the sector needs only to be added to the schedule of the bill via a gazetted notification which would make it compulsory for inspectors to monitor and protect children from labour. The missing ingredient was political will.
Gohar said that KP was the first provincial government in the country to legislate against child labour and were currently working towards legislation regarding education.
She was in agreement with Gillani in the fact that the government had never considered children, their safety and education as a priority. Today, however there were now separate ministries overseeing primary and higher education in KP.
Ispahani pointed out the economic disparity that this country was plagued with kept children in “slave labour”. If people paid their taxes, the government would have the money to invest in education and health sectors.
Gillani pointed out that along with a lack of implementation of law, the biggest challenge the country faced in stopping child labour and child abuse was mindset. The perception of child safety and child rights, though in consideration in some form by almost everyone, may in fact be diametrically different due to the upbringing and education one would have had. If a man grew up being beaten by his father, he would continue the same tradition with his children.
Gohar suggested that if people would only do enough to bring rag picking children, sit with them, even teach them, they would help in reducing the abuse children in our society faced.
Implementation of law, Gillani said, would act as a deterrent. Alternatively if people had child servants at home they should help educate these children.
Ispahani, who also serves as a media advisor to the President said that while the English press in the country raised such issues with impunity, need of the hour was to raise these very questions in the decidedly more Zia-esque conservative Urdu press in the country which had a wider reach and readership.