The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s nonseriousness towards securing children’s rights has been brought into question following reports of several non-functional Child Protection Units (CPUs) and the absence of a Chief Child Protection Officer in the province. The Child Protection Units, established under the coalition government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP), following the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection & Welfare Act 2010, were meant to act as a shelter for vulnerable children and those threatened by abuse and labour. According to details, some 12 units across various districts of the province were set up by the K-P Child Protection and Welfare Commission with the support of The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2011. By end of March 2018, UNICEF had wrapped up its project in Pakistan and handed the CPUs to provincial government to own and run. However, after UNICEF’s withdrawal, it appears that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has been unable to take responsibility of the project; leaving the once ambitiously created Child Protection Units to remain non-functional for over two year now.
According to Blue Veins Coordinator and Human Rights Activists Qamar Naseem, the K-P Child Protection and Welfare Commission itself has been faring without a Chief Child Protection Officer for the last six years. “With the notion that any child at risk is the responsibility of the state, these CPUs were meant to be a channel for the state to reach out to these children and provide them access to shelter and safety. In addition to that, CPUs were also supposed to play a vital role in awareness, coordination and referral of case data collection. They even advertised vacancies for these departments but sadly no recruitments could be made and the units were left as little but empty shells of the state’s promises.”
On the other hand, provincial police data obtained through the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2013, reveals that Peshawar and Mardan appeared among districts with most cases of child sexual abuse during January 2019 to December 2019. As per details of the data, during this period there were over 185 reported cases of child sexual abuse and 248 arrests across 26 districts of K-P. Out of which 42 cases were reported in Peshawar and Mardan each, while cases were registered against 67 accused persons in Peshawar and all 42 were arrested by the police in Mardan. The data further said there were 27 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Nowshera with the arrest of 39 accused persons. In Mansehra, there were 17 reported case with 23 arrests, whereas for Kohat, the data showed 12 reported cases of the heinous crime, which led to the arrest of 21 accused person.
Speaking to The Express Tribune about the issue of non-functional CPUs, K-P Social Welfare Department Secretary Muhammad Idrees Khan said the government had advertised vacancies for the CPUs in K-P, but the process was obstructed by the Covid-19 outbreak and is set to resume as soon as the situation normalises. He further mentioned that the government has also issued a notification implying that districts officer will be functioning in the capacity of Child Protection Officer in their respective districts. However, when questioned about the six yearlong vacancy for the post of Chief Child Protection Officer, Khan asserted that the seat has only been vacant for the past three years. “The recruitment process has been completed now and the name of the next Chief Child Protection Officer will be finalised in the next meeting,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2020.
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