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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior on Tuesday passed a bill increasing the punishment for involvement in child molestation and pornography between 14 and 20 years in prison.

The bill’s mover, MNA Mussarat Ahmadzeb, told the committee that the current punishment for child pornography is imprisonment for two to seven years. She said due to the money involved in child pornography, those involved are not concerned about “such a minute punishment”.

“There should be imprisonment of at least 14 years to a maximum of 20 years along a fine as per the choice of the court. Children are the future of this country and all possible steps should be taken to protect them,” she said.

Ms Ahmadzeb said Pakistan’s laws did not contain punishments for child pornography until after the Kasur child sexual abuse case, after which a law was passed that made the crime punishable with two to seven years in prison. Soon after, a similar incident targeting more than 50 children occurred in Swat.

Law Division opposes bill, says problem in Pakistan is not lack of laws but lack of implementation

In 2015, a gang of 25 people was revealed to have been involved in cases of child sexual abuse and nearly 400 child pornography videos in the Ganda Singh Wala area of Kasur that targeted 280 minors.

State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry said his ministry had no objections to the bill, but suggested seeking the opinion of the Ministry of Law.

Law ministry representative Mohammad Azam Warraich, however, opposed the bill. He said the bill should be rejected because the problem in Pakistan is not that new laws are needed but that laws are not implemented, and the issue would not end by increasing punishments.

Mr Chaudhry intervened and said the Law Division should come up with proposals rather than making sweeping statements.

“We know there are issues regarding the implementation of the law, but generalised statements should not be made,” he said.

MNA Yousuf Talpur also asked whether the Law Division wanted to say that the government has failed to implement laws. The Law Division representative said this was correct, and there was no point in making laws unless they are implemented.

MNA Naeema Kishwar added that parliament recently passed a law against rape, so there was no need for legislation on the same matter. However, Ms Ahmadzeb said child molestation and child pornography are not legally considered rape, and so the recently passed bill cannot be implemented on such matters.

Committee chairman MNA Rana Shamim Ahmed Khan then asked the committee members’ opinions, before declaring that the bill had been passed unanimously.

Ms Ahmadzeb told Dawn it was unfortunate that the Law Division was not in support of such important legislation.

“This is not the first time I moved this bill. I moved a similar bill last year and suggested that the culprits of such a heinous crime should be executed, but the Law Division objected to my bill and said the death penalty cannot be given on such crimes, due to which my bill was rejected.”

“So I amended my bill and removed the death penalty and included that the court should also impose fines on the culprits, because [a lot of] money is involved in this and in case of heavy fines, [people] will hesitate before committing the crime,” she said.

“The current law suggests a minimum punishment of two years. Since days and nights are counted separately in prison, in case of a two year sentence the accused are released within a year and then again start committing the same crime. Because of the severe punishment, I am sure that crime will be reduced if not stopped completely. I will now start lobbying to have the bill passed by the Senate,” she said.

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017