PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Commission (CPWC) rescued 68 child beggars from different areas of the provincial capital during a special operation launched last month.

An official of the commission told Dawn that the rescued children were presented before the child protection court consisting of district and sessions judge before 64 of them were handed over to their parents on giving an undertaking that they wouldn’t force their children to beg again.

The parents produced surety bonds of Rs50,000 each to get the custody of their children.

During the recent hearing into a petition of senior lawyer Mohammad Khursheed Khan, the Peshawar High Court had expressed displeasure at the involvement of children in hazardous labour work and begging.

The court had also issued directives to the provincial government and CPWC to address the issue seriously.

The CPWC official said the secretary of the social welfare and women development had been taking interest in the matter and had asked the commission to step up its efforts for checking child beggary.

The definition of ‘Child at Risk’ given in the CPWC Act 2010 also include a child found to be begging.

Also, under Section 45 of the Act, employing or using children for begging is an offence, which is punishable up to three years imprisonment with fine of up to Rs50,000.

CPWC deputy chief protection officer Mohammad Ijaz Khan told Dawn that the special campaign was launched on Oct 19 and that it was carried out for six days.

He said the commission had decided to conduct such operations three days a month to check the social issue after noticing increase in child beggars.

“We have established a team of child protection officers and social workers to identify and rescue such like children,” he said.

The official said initially after rescuing a child indulging in beggary would be adjusted in two institutions functional under the directorate of social welfare i.e. namely Welfare Home for Male Child Beggars and Welfare Home for orphans and destitute children, and after their assessment, they would be shifted to ‘Zamung Kor’, a child protection institution set up by the provincial government.

On the first day of the operation, 13 child beggars were rescued from areas including Haji Camp, Lahore Bus stand, Daewoo Bus Stand, Jalalabad Bus Stand, Firdaus, Hashtnagri and Peshawar Saddar. Afterwards, more such children were rescued from other localities.

“We have noticed that a sizeable number of girl child have also been used for begging,” Ijaz Khan said adding that in a recent meeting, the commission had decided to use the building of Darul Kifala for accommodating the female child beggars due to the presence of women staff members.

He said in near future, such operations would be conducted in other parts of the province, too.

The official said the commission had also been planning to develop the capacity of other departments especially police on the issue.

Social and child rights activist Imran Takkar called for a strong proactive approach to protect poor children from being forced into begging.

“There is a need of the implementation of KP Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2017, keeping in view Article 25A of the Constitution that every child from the age of 5 to 16 must be in school,” he added.

Mr Takkar called for a strengthened child protection system under the KP Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010.

“The government should allocate enough budget for the implementation of the law instead of depending on donors and extend the child protection units to all 26 districts as currently, they exist in 12 districts only and that, too, with donors support,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2017

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