IslamabadChildren in Pakistan had to live with a dilapidated health sector, a dismal public education system, retributive and violent juvenile justice system, lack of positive alternatives to child labour and a tacit cultural acceptance of various forms of violence against them during the year 2014. The overall situation of Pakistani
Islamabad Children in Pakistan had to live with a dilapidated health sector, a dismal public education system, retributive and violent juvenile justice system, lack of positive alternatives to child labour and a tacit cultural acceptance of various forms of violence against them during the year 2014. The overall situation of Pakistani children was summarised well in one sentence in annual ‘State of Pakistan’s Children Report’ by Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) launched on Thursday. The report provided an annual overview of the state of various sectors that affect children in the country, including child rights, health, education, child labour, juvenile justice and violence against children. The report termed deadly terror attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, as testimony to the fact that the state of Pakistan has comprehensively failed in meeting its obligations to the children of the country. The title page of the report also carries a picture from the same incident. The report quoted various national and international sources to reveal that 25 million children are out of school in Pakistan. The situation is further compounded by the lack of infrastructure and teaching staff along with poor teaching standards in public schools which can force more children to drop out of schools altogether. Moreover, in 2014, 296 cases of polio were reported from different parts of the country and 546 children died of acute malnutrition in Tharparkar district of Sindh. These cases were presented as testimony to the systematic failure of the government health sector which has failed to take proactive measures to address the various health crises afflicting the country. The report also revealed that provincial governments have failed to come up with updated or revamped legislation on important child rights issues in the post 18th Amendment scenario. For instance, child and bonded labour legislation is still in various stages of completion; furthermore, information on underage employment in the country has not been updated since 1996. The report says that Pakistan is ranked number 3 in the world with the highest prevalence of child and forced labour, 69,604 cases of violence against children were reported between 2000 and 2013, 1,381 cases of ‘vani’ happened between 2000 to 2013 and 1,786 cases of Child Sexual Abuse were reported between January and June 2014. The report also identified the increasing prevalence of violence against children in the country and highlighted that incidents of violence are much higher than what is stated by the media and research organisations as majority of cases are never reported to the authorities. The report called for concerted government and civil society engagement to address the issues faced by children and for bringing child rights and child protection in mainstream public discourse. The report revealed that in 2014 no significant breakthroughs were achieved to reach the health and education targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With the current rate of progress, Pakistan is most likely to miss its 2015 targets. The event was attended by state functionaries, human and child right activists, mediapersons and officials from national and international NGOs and donor agencies. The keynote speakers included former federal minister for health Dr Sania Nishtar, Zoe Leffler from European Commission, Hassan Mangi from Law and Human Rights Ministry and Anees Jillani of SPARC. SPARC’s research department representatives Zohair Waheed, Hamza Hasan and Marium Soomro presented the findings of the 2014 report and highlighted that Pakistan has remained far from achieving its national and international commitments, including the Millennium Development Goals, with regards to protecting and promoting the rights of children in the country. Speaking on the occasion, former federal minister for health Dr Sania Nishtar pointed out that there is no dearth of laws. “All we need is efficient intersectoral collaboration and creation of demand among public for effective implementation of these laws and policies.” Director Law and Human Rights Ministry Hassan Mangi highlighted the challenges of capacity and resources at provincial level that lead to delay in service delivery. He pointed out lack of data as another problem which contributes in poor implementation of laws.