LONDON - A change in law that would allow the criminal age of responsibility in Pakistan to be raised from seven to 12 has been hindered by authorities who claim it is unnecessary... because of curry.

The concerned minister said that the nation’s children grow up more quickly than in other countries due to the hot climate and spicy food. Raising the age to 12 would adhere with United Nations guidelines - and the move has frustrated politicians keen to see a bill passed to that effect.

The bill - which was drafted three years ago - would also make child pornography, child trafficking and sexual abuse illegal for the first time. But a string of objections has meant it has not yet had official approval.

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, head of the Ministry of Human Rights, said Pakistan could be subjected to international sanctions if it failed to raise the minimum age for prosecutions.

‘These are the problem I have to deal with,’ he told The Daily Telegraph. ‘Not only are we trying to raise the age of criminal liability, but we are also trying to introduce legislation to outlaw child pornography, trafficking and abuse which doesn’t exist in Pakistan at the moment.’ He added that the legislation was being obstructed due to ‘an unscientific theory that children here mature faster’.

The Ministry of Law and Justice said that sharia law views children as adults when they reach puberty. And since this onset varied depending on various factors, it would prove impossible to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

In a written submission, the ministry stated: ‘It can be well understood that attainment of maturity of understanding depends on social, economic, climatic, dietary and environmental factors.

‘That’s why a child in our subcontinent starts understanding nature and consequences of his/her conduct much earlier than a child in the West specially because of general poverty, hot climate, exotic and spicy food which contribute towards speedy physical and mental growth of the child.’

The ministry also claimed that raising the age would enable young, would-be suicide bombers to avoid punishment.

Khokhar has urged Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, to reconsider the proposals. He said: ‘These very young children are victims and should not be treated as criminals. We have rehabilitation centres for them.’

No one from the Interior Ministry was available for comment.