LAHORE: Child rights activists showed their concern regarding child protection after seven-year-old Zainab’s rape and murder in Kasur. They held a press conference at the press club and sought policy development and implementation to ensure protection of children.

Human rights lawyer Hina Jilani expressed her unease over the lack of priority given to the child protection agenda by the Punjab government even after sexual exploitation and pornography incidents involving children reported in 2015.

“Then the Punjab government was in a position to initiate the establishment of an efficient child protection system in Kasur which could be replicated in the rest of the province.”

Ms Jilani said if Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was serious he would immediately establish a taskforce by taking civil society on board. She demanded the CM personally supervise the development of a child protection policy followed by a comprehensive plan to address the issue of violence against children, which would be the only right way to ensure justice for Zainab and all the other children who suffered various forms of cruelty.

Child Rights activist Iftikhar Mubarik urged the Punjab government to ensure the safety of children by establishing an independent commission on their rights at provincial level. He sought approval of the child protection policy following recommendations of ‘Child Rights Protection Committee’ constituted on the directions of the CM and headed by the law minister in 2015 after the Kasur pornography incident.

Mubarik regretted recommendations vetted by the law minister were never sent to office of the chief minister to seek further approval and departments and officials concerned must be held responsible for it.

“It should be a matter of concern for the CM that there is still no particular department or authority in the province which has a broader mandate of child protection,” he added.

Tanveer Jahan urged all the stakeholders, including the government, media and civil society, to work in coordination to end violence against children.

Child Rights Movement provincial coordinator Rashida Qureshi demanded investigation skills for women police officers and that the cases of violence against women, girls and children must be handed over to them. She also demanded establishment of ‘Child Safety Cells’ in all district police offices in Punjab.

“The Punjab government must ensure adequate financial resources to carry our mass media awareness campaigns on regular intervals, child safety messages must be part of children’s curriculum, community-based child protection committees could also serve as watchdogs at the grassroots, comprising on influential persons and local government representatives.”

Dr Naeem Zafar, senior member of Child Rights Movement Punjab, and rights activist Bushra Khaliq also spoke.

Syed Miqdad Mehdi advocate, Ahmar Majeed advocate, Nazir Ghazi from GoDH, Umme Laila Azhar from HomeNet Pakistan, Nabila Bhatti from SANJOG, Zahra Sajjad from Group Development, Mahar Safdar from Bonded Labour Liberation Front and others were present.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018

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