ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Sub-committee on Interior on Friday rejected ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2016’, which was moved after the incidents of child sexual abuse and pornography in Kasur and Swat.

The bill, which was tabled by MNA Mussarrat Ahmed Zeb, says the current punishment for the crime did not match its magnitude and suggested increasing punishment for the sexual abuse of minors and child pornography.

Speaking during the committee’s meeting, Ms Zeb said that offenders should be awarded the death penalty or life imprisonment instead.

“People are not afraid of committing these crimes as the punishment for them is not more than seven years. The death penalty or life imprisonment should be awarded just like in rape cases. It is unfortunate that child pornography has become a business in which mafias are involved,” she said.

A representative of the Law Division told members that offenders are usually awarded five to seven years in prison. He said the law remains lenient for the first offence after which punishment is increased.

The mover of the bill says she wanted increased punishment for the crime because child pornography has ‘become a business’ in Pakistan

The convenor of the committee, Naeema Kishwar Khan, said the bill will not be approved as punishment for the offence already exists and “it is not rape”.

Ms Zeb asked if a child of between seven and 11 years of age can consent to be featured in pornographic content, to which Ms Khan replied that it was the government’s job to look into the issue and not the committee’s.

Ms Zeb then walked out of the committee room in Parliament Lodges.

Talking to Dawn later, she said that MNAs were sitting in parliament not to protect the interests of the people of the country but those of their respective parties.

“The incident of child sexual abuse and pornography started in Kasur where over 100 cases were reported and then in Swat where over 50 cases were reported. A mafia is involved in this but it is strange that the convener of the committee was not ready to listen to my point of view and understand the sensitivity of the issue,” she said.

She said she wanted increased punishments for the crime because child pornography has become a business in Pakistan.

“I will think of alternate ways of increasing punishment for this heinous crime,” she said, adding that mafias only stop being involved in a crime if punishment for it is increased. She said crime had decreased during Ziaul Haq’s time because the punishment of flogging was introduced.

“There are children in every house and they can become victims at any time. Therefore I suggest punishment for child sexual abuse be increased,” she argued.

Bill regarding rights of under-arrest individuals also rejected

The committee also rejected a bill which suggested that after they are arrested, people should be allowed to consult with a lawyer. The mover of the bill, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Dr Nikhat Shakeel Khan did not appear in four consecutive meetings to defend the bill.

The “Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill 2016” suggested that at the time of his arrest, a person shall be informed of the grounds of his arrest by the police officer making the arrest.

It suggested that before commencing the investigation, the police officer should allow the suspect to inform his family about his whereabouts and consult with a legal practitioner of his choice.

Ms Khan said the bill was rejected as its mover did not bother coming to four consecutive meetings.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2017