ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly yesterday passed ‘Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency Bill, 2019’ with the aim to provide a speedy system of alerts, recoveries, investigations and rehabilitation to prevent criminal activities against children.

The house, with the criticism of MMA on some clauses, approved the bill around two years after the body of nine-year-old Zainab Ansari, a rape-murder victim, was found in Kasur in 2018.

Zainab Ansari went missing and her body was found dead, as she was brutally raped and murdered. It triggered countrywide protests and anger. Zainab’s murderer was later apprehended and then hanged in Kot Lakhpat jail the same year.

According to the bill, “A helpline (1099) will also be established to specifically report such cases.” The bill, moved by Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari stated that action would be taken against any officer who failed to respond in a child abuse case within two hours of the report.

The statement of objects and reasons says, “The magnitude of violence against children is on an alarming stage. The current laws and procedures required to be strengthened, so this bill will provide speedy system of alert, response to curb criminal activities,” it says.

The bill provides a speedy system of alerts, responses, recoveries investigations, trails and rehabilitation to prevent and curb criminal activities against the children in ICT. It ensures harmonisation and cohesion in the working of the new agencies and institutions established for the protection of children and already existing mechanism within this field.

The clause related to ‘kidnapping children with intent to take moveable property’, says “Whoever kidnaps or abducts any child under the age of 18 years with the intention of taking dishonestly and any moveable property from the person of such child shall be punished with imprisonment of 4 years and with the fine of Rs1 million.”

The clause related to ‘kidnapping a person under the age of 18 years’, says ‘for the purpose of this act, whoever kidnaps any persons under the age of 18 years in order that such person may be murdered or subjected to grievous hurt, or slavery shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment to 14 years.’

According to the bill, special courts will be bound to decide sexual abuse cases involving children under the age of 18 within three months. PML-N’s parliamentary leader Khwaja Muhammad Asif said that this law should properly be implemented. “This bill should be implanted in letter and spirit,” he said.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed has expressed the confidence that Karachi Circular Railway will be operationalised in six months in collaboration with Sindh government.

Responding to a question during Question Hour in the National Assembly, he said the Supreme Court has directed to complete the project in six months. He said that the federal and the Sindh governments are on the same page in materializing this project. Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed said housing colonies illegally constructed on railways land and financial crunch are the biggest hurdles in this regard.

Responding to another question, Parliamentary Secretary for Railways Farrukh Habib informed the House that 550 vulnerable unmanned level crossings throughout Pakistan Railways network have been upgraded in collaboration with respective provincial governments to prevent accidents in future. He said old age kerosene oil based signals have been converted to LED lights on mainline, which have better visibility.

Farrukh Habib said that cameras are being installed inside the locomotives, while online inspection of officers and staff is also being ensured. Besides, training and monitoring, two thousand fire extinguishers will be installed in trains by the end of this month.

At the outset, the House offered fateha for the PAF pilot who was martyred when his plane crashed during rehearsal for Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad this morning. Maulana Akbar Chitrali led the fateha.

Answering a question, Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services, Dr. Nousheen Hamid has said complete screening of passengers landing at Pakistani airports is being ensured to check corona endemic.  She said the staff engaged in the screening has been provided with complete protective gear.