ISLAMABAD - A National Assembly panel yesterday approved a draft bill proposing death penalty and life imprisonment for rape against underage girls.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014, that proposes certain amendments in the relevant laws to strengthen anti-rape laws, investigation and prosecution system against such crimes and to prevent abuse of the law in this regard.

The rising number of rape cases in Pakistan is very alarming as, according to the figures of government, around 15,000 rape cases were registered in the country during last year alone.

The committee met with Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan in the chair. The bill that will be sent back to the National Assembly for approval bill says if anyone commits rape against a girl below 14 years of age shall be punished with imprisonment for life or death.

It also proposes two-year imprisonment to those disclosing the identity of rape victims as well as six months to two years imprisonment to police officers if they use delaying tactics in investigation into child abuse cases.

According to the bill, the convict will bear the expenses of the treatment of the rape victim otherwise a fine will be imposed on him. It also suggests mandatory DNA test for rape victims.

Shaista Perveiz Malik, mover of the bill, while briefing the committee, said rape was a physical and psychological attack on a woman’s dignity, body, her mental well-being, integrity and privacy and affected her ability to function in a society.

“It is the obligation of the state to prevent abuse of the process of law, protect the vulnerable from exploitation and ensure life and dignity of women,” she said.

The committee also took up the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2015. Some members of the committee opposed giving powers to the provinces, as proposed in the bill, to keep suspects for 90 days into their custody.

Officials of the Ministry of Interior, while briefing the committee on the bill, said the country was passing through an extraordinary situation which required stringent measures to curb the menace of terrorism.

After a detailed discussion, the committee partially endorsed the amendments proposed in the said bill with minor changes. The committee directed the Ministry of Interior to bring it back before the committee in its next meeting for final approval.