LAHORE, Nov 20: The Punjab government should immediately establish a Provincial Commission on the Rights of Children (PCRC) to monitor, promote and protect children’s rights and advocate for change in legislative framework to make it more child-centred.
This was demanded by a number of civil society organisations, MPAs and representatives of government departments in a consultation on “Provincial commission on the rights of children in Punjab” arranged here on Tuesday to mark the Universal Children’s Day by Child Rights Movement, Punjab, a network of 28 organisations working on children’s issues, in collaboration with ActionAid.
Child rights activist Iftikhar Mubarik said the 18th Constitutional Amendment had made child rights a provincial subject. It was important to note that though children constituted almost 50 per cent of the total population of the province yet were voiceless in the public domain and still there was no body with a statutory status for the promotion and protection of their rights.
Therefore, it was the responsibility of the elected representatives to protect and promote the rights of children in the province by legislative action.
He said current structures were ill-resourced and ill-equipped. The government must strengthen these structures to cater to the needs of children. As a matter of fact, there was a dire need to set up an independent “provincial commission on the rights of the children” with powers to investigate cases of abuse and violence against children and monitor the implementation of the UNCRC. Additionally, such an independent body should also devise strategies to raise awareness about child rights.
Mr Iftikhar Mubarik urged the government to expedite the process of legislation that embodies the rights of children and for the setting up of an independent commission on the rights of children.
CRM Punjab Focal Person Syed Miqdad elaborated that the proposed commission should analyse existing laws, policies and practices to assess compliance with the convention and other international human rights obligations relating to children and make recommendations to the government and should also undertake inquiries and produce reports on any aspect of policy or practice affecting children in the province.
The commission should analyse the existing government statistics on children in general and children at risk in particular to identify gaps or the need for disaggregated data and where there was a lack of existing information about their lives.
It should produce data of its own through commissioned research, or urge the government to undertake any necessary research while PCRC would also incorporate children’s rights into the school curriculum and press for inclusive education and contribute to the development of the necessary materials for children of all ages, as well as promoting child-centered education.
The commission, subject to exceptions under the law, might summon any person whose attendance was considered necessary for the purpose of any business before it and the person so summoned should be bound to appear at the time and place mentioned in the summons. Decisions made by the commission should be binding on the authorities concerned and citizens. Under the commission control the government should establish a fund to be known as “Child Rights Fund” for the promotion and protection of the rights of children in the province.
Adviser to Chief Minister Begum Zakia Shahnawaz said the CM was concerned for the protection of children and the Punjab government was seriously considering strengthening the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau under the umbrella of social welfare department. She said the idea of establishing an independent commission exclusively for the rights of children sounded strong and the provincial government could look into this matter by taking on board all the stakeholders.
She said the Child Rights Movement, Punjab, should come up with a related draft bill within 10 days and she would personally take up this issue with the chief minister.
Member Punjab Bar Council and President Lahore Bar Association Chaudhary Zulfiqar Ali, Program Manager ActionAid Daud Saqlain, MPAs Arifa Khalid Pervaiz and Amna Ulfat also spoke in this consultative session.
Meanwhile, Chairman Human Liberation Commission Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra and others have expressed their concern over the condition of children in Pakistan.
Speaking at a video conference, they said children did not have basic rights and facilities including education and childhood playing. They were being forced to work at brick kilns, carpet and shoe factories, and as domestic workers.
They urged the provincial assemblies to pass Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill in the light of the United Nations Charter and National Assembly bill, and should also legislate against child labour.
In its message on the Universal Children’s Day, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) Lahore urged the world to raise voice for the children of Palestine.
In a statement, IJT Nazim Mudasar Shah said NGOs used to celebrate Universal Children’s Day every year under the United Nations but it was ironic that these NGOs remained silent on atrocities against Palestinian children by Israel.