Zainab alert bill finally passed by national assembly

Zainab alert bill finally passed by national assembly

The real issue is the proper and effective implementation of law. 

On January 10- the parliament finally passed the Zainab Alert, Response, and Recovery Act, 2020. It took the lawmakers 8 months to pass this important law. The bill, which will become law once approved by the Senate, aims to protect and raise alert when a child goes missing or is abducted. This is the important step in the right direction. 

This law was necessary to protect the children from kidnapping- sexual abuse and exploitation. The “missing and abducted children” needed this law for quick recovery and action. The sexual violence and abuse has increased in last few years against the young children. The crimes against children have increased to alarming levels.
The new law has been named after Zainab, a six-year-old girl, who was kidnapped from her home in Kasur, and then raped and killed in 2017. We need to protect our children from abuse- exploitation and sexual violence. 
The real issue is the proper and effective implementation of law.   

This bill was tabled in the national assembly by the Human Rights Ministry. The brutal murder of Zainab sparked protests across the country, demanding her killer be brought to justice. In 2015, the presence of a large, well-connected pedophile ring in the city made headlines after hundreds of videos depicting the sexual abuse of children surfaced.

In Pakistan, Kasur has remained at the centre of the storm. In 2018, the police arrested four people for purchasing minor girls for prostitution. In 2019, protests erupted once again when the tortured bodies of three abducted boys were recovered. And just last week, the mother of a 12-year-old girl filed a complaint against her husband for allowing another man to sexually abuse the child for Rs500.

Under the new law, a Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) will be set up. The director general of the Agency will be appointed by the prime minister. It will be tasked to maintain a database of missing and abducted children, and work closely with the helpline, 1099, which will forward all reported cases to the Agency.

-In case a child is reported missing, the ZARRA will activate alerts across the federal capital. Information, such as the child’s physical characteristics, habits, clothes etc, will be send to all relevant law enforcement agencies and the public at large.

-In coordinate with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, messages will generated to all service providers regarding the child. Also the information will be sent to all electronic and print media as well as radio stations to disseminate.

A helpline, 1099, will be set up to help the public report a missing or abducted child or any information related to a missing child.

ZARRA will also issue monthly public reports and updates on its website about missing children. The Agency will set up a mobile application where the public can access all data related to missing and abducted children.

In addition, a Child Protection Advisory Board will be established to ensure ZARRA is effectively performing its functions from the registration of a FIR to the safe recovery of a child and the referral for rehabilitation.

The police station, where a case of missing or abducted child is reported shall, immediately, within two hours, inform ZARRA. The bill also prescribes punishment for police officers who are do not comply, or hinder the process of reporting a missing child.

The maximum sentence to a perpetrator will be life imprisonment and the minimum sentence will be 10 years.

Under this law- offenders will be handed life imprisonment, along with a fine of Rs one million, as maximum punishment. Since the bill only covers the Islamabad Capital Territory, it is of critical importance that the provinces now take up the issue.

                                                       The editor

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