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Karachi

May 28, 2018

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‘State should focus on improving child development index’

The country’s law and order situation has been brought to a saturation point, so now the state should focus on improving the human development index, particularly the child development index, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Sindh chief told The News in an interview.

Additional Inspector General of Police Dr Sanaullah Abbasi, who also holds a PhD in law, cited different reports associated with pressing issues, such as children’s education and health care, child labour and juvenile justice.  

Education

Abbasi said any country that has ever been able to escape the cycle of underdevelopment has done so by investing heavily in human capital development, adding that over the years, education and health care in Pakistan have received the lowest allocation of budgetary funds.

He cited the Human Capital Development Report 2016 that ranked Pakistan at 118, which was far below the neighbouring India (105), Iran (85) and China (71).

According to the report, less than 10 per cent of the population in Pakistan has received tertiary education. It also states that Pakistan spends one of the lowest proportions of GDP on education in the world (2.5 per cent).

The CTD chief said that over the decades, the education sector in Pakistan has been marred by a plethora of challenges, ranging from problems related to access and quality of education to budgetary deficiencies.

He said the total number of out-of-school children aged 5-16 are 22.6 million: 5 million at primary school level, 6 million at middle school level and 11 million at secondary level.  

Health

Abbasi said that nearly half of all children in Pakistan are chronically malnourished, which undermines their mental and physical growth. He cited many reasons contributing to the nutritional deprivation, including poverty, food insecurity, improper feeding practices, poor health services and illnesses linked to hygiene.

The 2016-17 budget for the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Division under the Public Sector Development Programme was worth Rs24.951 billion. He said that like the previous budgets, nothing significant was announced for many health care sectors.

Moreover, added the CTD chief, many people have little knowledge of micronutrients in Pakistan, leading to a plethora of health-related problems due to micronutrient deficiencies.  

Child labour

An International Labour Organisation report shows a decline in the number of child labourers worldwide from 200 million in 2000 to 168 million in 2014. According to the Global Slavery Index 2013, Pakistan ranked third in the world, with the highest prevalence of slavery.

A 1996 survey puts the number of child labourers in Pakistan at 3.3 million. Abbasi said the national child labour prohibition laws do not cover agriculture, child domestic labour and the informal sector in general.

He said lacunas in laws give rise to exploitation and make litigation difficult against individuals involved in child and forced labour, adding that national laws restrict the working age to 14 years, which is not in line with Article 25-A of the Constitution.

Recommendations

The CTD chief said health and education are key components in developing the human capital of a country, but unfortunately, Pakistan is lagging behind in both. Therefore, he added, it is necessary to invest a major chunk of the annual budget in health-related initiatives.

He also stressed the importance of a major reform to enhance the overall efficacy of the bodies relating to health care, education and law enforcement. Regarding the gap between private and public facilities for both health care and education in terms of use of technology, methods, staff and capacity of institutes, he pointed out the need to enhance public-private partnership to reduce the gap to ensure the provision of quality health care and education.

He also highlighted that legislation has been slow and arduous after the 18th Amendment. While implementation of existing laws is a hassle due to a broken judicial system, there needs to be more accountability in ensuring it, he said.  

Conclusion

With regard to juvenile offenders, Abbasi said it is imperative to ensure rehabilitative rather than retributive justice and to ensure implementation of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance at all levels of the criminal justice system.

He also stressed enactment of laws against corporal punishment, forced conversions and forced marriages to protect the interests of minorities at federal and provincial levels. He suggested that the government adopt the numerous pending bills about children’s rights, all the while ensuring their conformity with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

He recommended effective monitoring and accountability of law enforcement agencies to ensure that they fairly treat vulnerable groups, such as juvenile offenders, abused children and minorities.

The CTD chief said the Sindh Social Welfare Department should establish child protection units in every district, adding that the provincial government should also appoint social welfare officers for every unit.

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