The National Assembly on Tuesday adopted a bill for the protection of child rights in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
The Child Protection Bill 2014 provides for establishment of a powerful child protection commission by the federal government for the prevention, protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of children at risk with a mandate to oversee government’s policies for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other regional and national treaties ratified by the government.
After the passage of 18th Amendment, child rights was devolved to provinces and to date, there is statutory body at the federal level for the protection of their rights.
The private bill, jointly moved by MPs including Muhammad Pervez Malik, Asiya Naz Tanoli, Marvi Memon, and Shaista Pervaiz, was later referred to an NA standing committee for further discussion.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says that after the 18th Amendment was passed in 2010, the provinces initiated work on provincial legislation on child protection and welfare, but the ICT does not have laws on child protection and welfare.
The bill suggests that the federal government make the annual budgetary allocations for the establishment and functioning of the proposed commission. The funds will be utilised for the protection and welfare of children at risk.
It calls for the establishment of child protection institutions and the appointment of child protection officers by the commission at ICT level.
If approved, the bill says individuals maintaining and running children’s home within ICT limits will require a license from the Child Protection Commission.
The private bill also suggests the establishment of child protection court for ICT, where the presiding officer will be bound to decide a child’s case within 30-day.
The bill calls for the complete abolishment of corporal punishment, the bill calls for punishment up to six months imprisonment or a fine up to Rs50,000 for those doling out corporal punishment to a child.
The ICT administration will be the custodian of child rights within its territorial limits and will be responsible for taking appropriate action to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or unfair punishment.
The absence of a federal-level body for child rights protection has already left Pakistan red-faced at least once. In 2011, Pakistani delegates went to Kathmandu, Nepal, to participate in a regional moot titled, “South Asia Initiatives to End Violence against Children”. Once there, they found themselves demoted to attending in observer status rather than as full participants.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2014.
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