ISLAMABAD -  Children constitute more than half of the population but by not implementing the national legislation and obligations under the international covenants signed and ratified by Pakistan the state has failed to protect the country’s children.

This was stated by PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar at a symposium organized by the Wafaqi Mohtasib in Islamabad on the issues facing the children and strategy to address them.

A review of existing legislation and adoption of new legislation may be necessary but what is critical is the implementation of existing legislation and the international commitments made by Pakistan to take measures to address the plight of children, he said.

He said that last month the Senate Human Rights Committee had passed the National Commission on the Rights of Child Bill 2017 and the report of the committee will be tabled in the Senate today and called upon the government to immediately enact the law. 

He said that the Juvenile Justice System Bill was also before the cabinet and expressed the hope that after cabinet’s approval the Bill will be tabled in wither House without delay.

He said that a great deal of responsibility lay on the Parliament to promulgate laws but it was also not correct to say that the Parliament had done nothing.

The Parliament has already made legislation to prevent violence and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography. In addition two private members bills one aimed at taking care of orphaned and abandoned children and the other on domestic help have already been passed unanimously by the Senate.

As the private bill on orphaned and abandoned children, passed by the Senate, was not passed by the National Assembly within 90 days of its laying it has been referred for taking up at the joint sitting of the Parliament.

Farhatullah Babar called for the implementation of the 2012 Universal Periodic Review as well as those of the UN on the periodic reports submitted to it by Pakistan.

He said that the personnel of law enforcing agencies be sensitized through special courses to children’s’ rights and dignity and a special channel of state television be dedicated to children programs and their issues.  He said that the plight of children can be seen from the reports published in newspapers about the violence against them during the first three weeks of this year.

According to these reports, there were 26 cases of violence against children during this period which means more than one incident daily.

Out of 26 victims, 19 were girls and 9 boys all between ages 5 to 15 thus showing the extreme vulnerability of female children. Most of the incidents were reported from Punjab.

Thirteen out of the 26 children were raped and 5 were found dead in the homes of their employers. It was not known in how many cases FIRs had been registered and pursued. According to Amnesty International 35 per cent of children in domestic employment in Pakistan are subjected to violence.

These are alarming statistics that should jolt the state and society from its slumber, he said.

Those who participated in the deliberations included MNA Aasyia Nasir, Senator Rubina Khalid, MNA Naeema Kishwar, Wafaqi Mohtasib Salman Farooqui besides representatives of civil society organizations.