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- Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - From Print Edition




Ensuring sufficient investment for more than 86 million children in the country is critical for the realisation of different aspects of their needs and rights.


The recommendation makes part of the study titled ‘The State of Children in Pakistan’ launched on Monday by the Children’s Complaint Office (CCO) with the support of Unicef. The study provides a thorough picture of the current status of children in Pakistan, with respect to five thematic areas including health, education, juvenile justice, child labour and violence against children at the federal, provincial level and the special status regions.


Based on its findings, the study presents workable policy recommendations for the federal and provincial governments and the special status regions in order to address the gaps identified in child rights protection mechanisms. It is the first government endorsed thematic study on the status of children in Pakistan.


The report says that general picture of neglect of child rights is common to all areas of Pakistan with slight variations form and extent of privileges, being available or absent, as permitted by the economic condition of a province. It says that 18th Constitutional Amendment, on the other hand, presents an extended opportunity to the provinces to initiate, co-ordinate, and take measures to promote and protect child rights.


It mentions that Pakistan, in the last sixty-four years, has endured all types of trauma and turmoil, including war, martial law, political instability, sectarian and ethnic strife, insurgency, a separatist movement, political strife, governance issues, corruption, economic stagnation, high levels of poverty, increasing crime, militancy, death and destruction, and natural calamities. Children have, consequently, been the worst sufferers and paid the heaviest price in all these upheavals and disasters.


It says that Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates and highest maternal and child mortality rates. The population is growing rapidly while employment has been reducing. More and more children are turning to labour to counter increasing food and fuel prices and supplement family income to keep themselves and the family afloat.


The army of street children is also growing at a rapid speed, particularly after the earthquake of 2005 and floods of 2010, whereby thousands have been rendered homeless and orphaned. Violence against children is also rising and, every year, the Cruel Numbers cite more and more children being raped, murdered, sexually abused etc., with impunity.


The report further says that education is generally cited as a panacea for all evils but it is not the only remedy for the existing state of affairs. The second important sector that needs immediate and urgent attention is children’s health. The resurgence of polio is a serious and dreadful health issue, and the ever increasing number of children, dying of diarrhoea, dehydration and other preventable diseases, is a major cause for concern.


It recommends that to improve the situation, the government has to take stock of the state of the children of this nation and implement, in letter and spirit, both national laws and international commitments, to promote and protect child rights and take measures that are in the best interests of the children.


It says that the government has failed to establish a comprehensive and permanent mechanism to collect children’s data, disaggregated by sex, age, and rural and urban area with emphasis on the vulnerable group.


It is recommended that the government make efforts to implement the National Plan of Action 2006, all over Pakistan. Provincial governments should develop their district and provincial plans of action on children, and commit resources to achieve targets. The Ministry of Human Rights should monitor compliance of provincial governments.


It suggests that the federal government should review and develop the Child Rights Policy indicating minimum standards and a framework to be adopted by all provincial governments with key focus on education, child protection, health, and child labour.


It also recommends the review of the National Education Policy with the input of provinces and urges for a common curriculum to bridge the public-private divide. The federal and provincial governments are recommended to enact new laws or pass relevant laws that have been pending for many years.


It says that Pakistan needs a strong focal body, at the federal level, with statutory powers. It is recommended to establish child rights’ commissions, at the federal and provincial levels, to better implement the UNCRC and protect children by establishing an effective monitoring mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights.


It is recommended to establish a child rights information system to collect children’s data and strengthen the role of National Commission of Child Welfare Development/ Ministry of Human Rights.


It recommends cost-free birth registration campaigns be initiated and birth registration procedures be simplified to cover all persons regardless of sex, religion, status or nationality. For corporal punishment, it calls for replacement of Section 89 of the Pakistan Penal Code. It also calls to amend and implement the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 1929.


The launch was attended by the government officials, civil society and media. Speaking on this occasion, Head CCO Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi said there is dire need to strengthen child rights legislation both at provincial and national levels.


He also stressed for the necessary human and financial authority to implement provision related to children in the 18th constitutional amendment.


The Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Human Rights, Robina Saadat Qaimkhani, said the government will review and develop the child rights policy indicating minimum standards and a framework to be adopted by all provincial governments with key focus on education, child protection, health and child labour.