PESHAWAR: Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth inaugurated the first child protection court here at the Judicial Complex on Saturday amid plans for the establishment of such courts in all divisional headquarters and districts of the province by the end of the current year.
Accompanied by child rights activists, judicial officers, lawyers and civil society members, the chief justice visited different parts of the court, which was refurbished to provide a conducive atmosphere to minor visitors.
The high court recently posted additional district and sessions judge Wadya Mushtaq Malik as the presiding officer of the exclusive child protection court under Section 15 of the Child Protection and Welfare Commission Act, 2010.
The court based in Peshawar to hear 62 cases pending with others
The judge will head both child protection court and juvenile court under the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018.
Sixty-two cases earlier pending with other courts have been shifted to the child protection court for hearing. Six of them were fixed for hearing on Saturday.
A children-friendly atmosphere was created in the court comprising a courtroom and side rooms by the use of attractive paint and display of paintings. Carrom and ludo boards were also placed in a children-friendly space adjacent to the courtroom.
PHC registrar Khwaja Wajihuddin told reporters that the court would handle issues related to child protection and welfare, particularly legal custody of the destitute and neglected children, reunification of destitute and neglected children with their families, trial of cases registered under the Child Protection and Welfare Act, welfare of children, trial of cases involving where children are victim, witness and offender, and protection of movable and immovable properties of orphan and neglected children and those at risk.
“The primary role of the child protection court was to ensure protection of children from maltreatment, violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect,” said the registrar, who was accompanied by Peshawar’s district and sessions judge Mohammad Younas Khan and district judge Mohammad Zaib Khan.
He said the setting up of this court was as a pilot project and in near future they intended to establish exclusive child protection court either at Mardan or Abbottabad.
In the second phase, he said Child Protection Court would be extended to Divisional Headquarter followed by setting up these courts at every district across the province.
Mr Wajihuddin said the provincial government had already been approached about the financial implication and provision of basic facilities in these courts.
He added that they had also sent some recommendations related to certain legislations so that in future the child protection court should hear all cases related to children.
He said protecting vulnerable children from mental and physical abuse and mistreatment was collective responsibility of every segment of the society and stressed the need for proactive child protection policy to provide safe environment.
The PHC, he states has successfully arranged training session at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Judicial Academy for the Judicial Officers and representatives of all stakeholders involved in the child protection and welfare.
The registrar said proceedings and atmosphere of child courts will be totally different as arrangements have been made in two separate rooms equipped with toys and books and colorful paintings on walls to acclimatise them with court environment. Counselling will also be given to those children appearing in courts.
He thanked British High Commission and Ms Valerie Khan of an organisation, Group Development Pakistan (GDP), for extending assistance to the judiciary in setting up of the court.
Known child rights activist, Arshad Mahmood, hailed the setting up of CPC, saying it was a good initiative on part of PHC and provincial government.
He, however, told reporters that the setting up of the child protection court was only one component of child protection and that the government should invest in other components.
Mr Mahmood said the budgetary allocations should be made for all components of child protection, while more focus should be on prevention of child abuse.
Representatives of the GDP Valerie Khan and Imran Takkar supervised the court’s establishment to make it more attractive for children.
Several children from Zamong Kor, a child welfare institution, who were also in attendance, hailed the establishment of the court.
They said it was a memorable moment for them to be part of the event and that they hoped that more steps would be taken for the protection of children.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2019