Pakistan is all set to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, said Parliamentary Secretary on Human Rights and Member National Assembly (MNA) Rubina Qaimkahni.
The protocol puts checks on enlistment of children below 18 years of age in armed forces.
Pakistan had ratified the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1990, she said. Optional protocols are parts of main treaties and open to ratification by signatory states, she said.
She said that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts was adopted by General Assembly through a resolution in May 2000 and it entered into force in February 2002.
The protocol reads, “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities.”
The protocol further states, “States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.”
The protocol asks states to reduce the age of voluntary enrolment in armed forces, she said.
The states ratifying the protocol had expressed concern over impact of armed conflict on children and the long-term consequences it has for durable peace. In the text of the protocol they had condemned the recruitment, training and use of children in hostilities by armed groups distinct from the armed forces of a state.
Rubina said the current government is trying to promote and protect the child rights. “We have taken a number of initiatives for ensuring children’s access to education, health, protection and developmental opportunities,” she said. “We are devising innovative strategies to address children’s issues in light of the new political, legal and economic framework.”
She said that the establishment of parliamentarians’ forum on child rights is one of the achievements of her government.
The purposes of the parliamentarians forum is to ensure Parliament’s role in effectively legislating and monitoring public sector institutions working for provision of education, health care, food, nutrition, protection and safe environment for children.
The forum complements efforts on the promotion and protection of child rights, she said.
She appreciated the role of public and private sector organisations for promoting the rights and well-being of children.
“They are playing as catalysts and change agents at the grass-root level to make the society child-friendly,” said Rubina.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.