Sindh assembly empowers child protection agency

Authority can now take suo motu action on cases of violence against children


Hafeez Tunio April 24, 2021

KARACHI:

The provincial assembly empowered the Sindh Child Protection Authority to take suo motu action on cases of abduction, rape, murder or any other kind of assault against children.

The house passed a law to this effect in Friday's session in the wake of increasing crimes against children.

The Sindh Child Protection Authority Act was originally passed in 2011, but it did not cover any preventive or curative measures. As a result, amendments and drastic changes were made to make the relevant authority more effective in protecting the children of Sindh.

After the latest amendments, police would have no excuse against lodging the cases of children who fall prey to different kinds of violence.

"It will be mandatory for police or any law enforcement agency to lodge [an] FIR on receipt of complaint by any person or child protection authority representative. The failure or non-registration of [an] FIR by police will result in punishment against the cops," the law stated.

Read: ‘2.5 million street children await govt help’

The bill for this legislation was introduced a couple of months ago and referred to the house's standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs and human rights for deliberation. Law and child protection experts, as well as social activists, weighed in on the proposed law before finalizing a draft of the bill.

As the session kicked off with PA Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the chair, PPP's Pir Mujeebur Rehman, who also happens to be chairman of the standing committee, stood up and presented the report in the house. He also sought further permission to move the bill.

According to the previous law, the social welfare department minister used to be chairperson of the authority.

In future, the Sindh chief minister will appoint any member of the authority to serve as its chairman. This also translates into activists, who have made social welfare and human and child rights contributions, becoming members.

The amendments also empowered the child protection officer to inspect or visit any institute providing child care services and examine related records if reports surface of any wrongdoing. The offences could include child abuse, illegal adoption or any other illegal activity.

"The child protection officer shall, within 24 hours of this act, inform the director general of the authority about the incident," the law said.

During the session, a few child rights activists, who were part of drafting the law, remained present in the gallery to witness proceedings. National Commission on Rights of Children member Iqbal Ahmed Detho, one of the architects of the law, assured The Express Tribune that any report of the child abuse would remain confidential.

"No name of the victim will be disclosed to any newspaper," Detho said and added that all offenses under this law shall be recognisable and non-bailable. "The government, in consultation with the Sindh High Court, will notify special courts for child protection and speedy justice."

Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the chief minister's advisor on the law and part of the bill's finalization team, dubbed the latest development as a big success. He went as far as saying that the legislation was nothing short of extraordinary.

"This law will help us address major issues related to child protection. [I am] proud to have been part of this initiative," he said.

Read more: ‘Pakistan has second highest number of out-of-school children’

Regularising teachers’ appointment

The Sindh Assembly also passed a law to regularise teachers appointed on a contractual basis. "We have already regularised most teachers and are now passing a law to give permanent jobs to the rest," said Sindh Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla.

Around 3,000 contractual teachers, who had passed the NTS test and exams conducted by Sindh University, would benefit from the legislation.

During the session, members of the opposition raised various issues on public interest, moving call to attention notices. Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the Grand Democratic Alliance drew the house's attention towards the nonpayment of salaries to 300 teaching and nonteaching staff of Quaid-e-Awam University, Larkana.

On the other hand, PTI MPA Adeel moved a call to attention notice on the government failure to control inflation in the city.

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