KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill against employment of children below the age of 14, making child labour an offence punishable with prison term and fine.
The Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Bill, 2017 carries up to six-months’ imprisonment and a fine up to Rs50,000 for the offenders. And if a child is employed for a hazardous job, the prison term may be extended up to three years with Rs100,000 fine.
According to the bill, no establishment or factory could employ a child less than 14. They had to meet strict conditions before employing a child between 14 and 18.
Rounding up the discussion on the general principles of the bill, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah informed the house that a law — The Employment of Children Act 1991 — existed at the federal level but it was being repealed in view of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution as the subject “Labour” had been devolved to the provinces.
“Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces have already replaced the act accordingly and the Sindh government have also devolved many laws, but this legislation is now taken up as we have made a policy of considering the bill in the cabinet before tabling it in the assembly,” he said.
During the discussion, the house adopted two minor amendments suggested by lawmakers Amir Moin Pirzada and Sumeta Afzal of the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement about deleting a clause pertaining to allowing a child not below the age of 14 to engage in light work for maximum two hours for acquiring skills. The other amendment was about increasing the members of the Sindh Coordination Committee on Child Labour from seven to nine.
Earlier, Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Khuhro, who introduced the bill, highlighted its general principles and said that child labour on petty wages was an old issue. Before 18th Amendment the federal government used to tackle the issue but after devolvement of the labour department it was now the constitutional responsibility of the provinces to deal with this issue.
He said that it was the Sindh government which made such a law so that no one could take advantage of the poverty of innocent children.
Recalling a recent incident in which a child, Tayyaba, who worked in the house of a judicial officer, was tortured, the minister said that the incident took place in Islamabad and the person involved was not an illiterate person. “Greedy people [take] advantage of children and their families’ economic compulsions, but now we are making efforts so that no one could exploit them.”
The parliamentary party leader of the MQM, Syed Sardar Ahmad, termed the bill very positive and timely.
Nusrat Saher Abbasi of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Functional also supported the bill but said that lawmakers should be given some time to study it before consideration of the bill.
Pakistan Peoples Party’s Ghazala Sial, MQM’s Heer Soho, Dr Seema Zia of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, provincial minister Shamim Mumtaz and others also supported the bill before it was unanimously passed into law.
Speaking on a point of order, PML-N’s Sorath Thebo drew the attention of the house towards death threats to artist Sheema Kirmani by unknown persons.
CM Shah assured the house that the Sindh government had taken certain measures to provide protection to the artist. Besides, he said, he had written to the interior ministry to take action against those institutions which had turned into ‘nurseries’ for training extremists.
Responding to the call attention notices of PTI’s Khurram Sherzaman and MQM’s Kamran Akhtar regarding traffic problems and motorcycle racing and ‘one-wheeling’, Senior Minister Khuhro said that some 22 development projects were being executed in Karachi, which certainly caused problems to the people.
He mentioned some of the steps already taken by the government for maintaining smooth flow of traffic and said that with the completion of the projects, there would be further improvement in the flow of traffic.
About one-wheeling and bike racing, he said some 10 to 12 gangs were exploiting poor kids for riding motorcycles fast so that they could fix bets. He said that the government had taken severe measures to stop this menace by involving police and local administration and many culprits had been arrested.
Responding to the call attention notice of MQM’s Naheed Begum about non-payment of salaries to lady health visitors, Health Minister Dr Sikander Mandhro informed the house that the lady health workers programme was introduced at the federal level, but after its devolvement to the provinces some delay was caused. However, the salaries of lady health workers had been released, he said.
In response to the point of order of PPP lawmakers Allah Bux Talpur and Imtiaz Shaikh about disconnection of power supply to over 100 villages and prolonged load-shedding, the CM said that he had already written to the ministry of water and power and also drawn the attention of the federal government towards this complaint and would again take up the issue with the Centre.
Mr Khuhro also laid the report in the house on second biannual monitoring on the implementation of National Finance Commission Award for the period between January and June 2016 as required under clause 3(B) of Article 160 of the Constitution.
The house, which was called to order at 11.10am with Deputy Speaker Syeda Shehla Raza in the chair, after completion of the order of the day was adjourned to meet on Thursday.
Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2017