The National Assembly on Friday passed the Zainab Alert Bill 2019, which will introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights had unanimously passed the Zainab Alert Bill on October 8, 2019.

The bill was presented in the National Assembly today by Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari to mark the second death anniversary of seven-year-old Zainab Ameen Fatima, who was brutally raped and murdered in January 2018.

Addressing the floor of the House, Mazari thanked Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Asad Umar and National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights Chairperson Mahreen Razaque Bhutto for expediting the bill's passage.

The bill will pave the way for the setting up of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported.

The powers and functions of Zarra include the activation of alerts at the federal capital level whenever there is a report about a missing or abducted child. These alerts will include information on the physical characteristics of the missing or abducted child as well as any other data that will help in the child’s identification.

The proposed authority will also coordinate with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for issuance of Zainab Alert SMSes and MMSes, and with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to run tickers on television channels or any other available medium.

It also envisions the setting up of a nationwide telephonic toll-free hotline number where any person may report a missing or abducted child. It also calls for the maintenance of an online database both in the National Commission of the Rights of the Child (NCRC) and the division concerned of every reported incident of a missing or abducted child.

Zainab, to whom the bill is dedicated, was kidnapped on January 4, 2018, from near her aunt’s house in Kasur. Five days later, she was found dead in a garbage heap.

On January 23, authorities had apprehended Imran Ali — a serial killer involved in other similar crimes — through a DNA match. Ali's DNA had matched samples taken from seven other minor girls who were abused and murdered earlier in Kasur.

The suspect had also confessed to his crimes following his arrest. On February 17, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) hearing the case had sentenced Imran to death on four counts.

On October 17, 2018, Ali was executed at the Kot Lakhpat Central Jail in Lahore.