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ISLAMABAD: A special parliamentary committee on Friday witnessed an exchange of harsh words between members of two coalition partners – PTI and MQM.

During the meeting of the Senate Special Committee on the issue of increasing incidents of child abuse chaired by Senator Nuzhat Sadiq, MQM lawmaker Barrister Mohammad Ali Khan Saif in an emotional and aggressive tone said state departments had failed to control child abuse cases.

Negating the minister’s remarks, who had earlier spoken about incomplete data on child abuse cases, Mr Saif said the importance of data cannot be ruled out when you need to allocate budget but to deal with cases of child abuse there was no need of data.

MQM senator says state depts have failed to control child abuse cases

He expressed his displeasure over the absence of inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad in the meeting to brief the members about steps being taken to stop child abuse in the capital.

After briefing the committee, the human rights minister, Shireen Mazari, told the chair that she was going to attend another meeting, adding that “I know Mr Saif will object”.

In response, the MQM senator told the minister: “Do not come to attend committee meetings.”

Addressing Mr Saif, the minister said: “If you are a parliamentarian so am I.”

She then left the room to attend another meeting.

Ignoring the request of other committee members, Mr Saif also walked out of the venue.

Earlier, the committee discussed the increasing kidnapping of children, child labour and abuses on a motion by senators Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar and Sardar Mohammad Shafiq Tareen.

Senator Kakar observed that the increasing number was a failure on part of parents, social circles, media, law enforcement agencies and courts.

He said the committee should adopt an approach that tackles the issue holistically.

Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri observed that the issue had to do with the problems prevalent in society as a whole and poverty was the primary cause of the huge number of out-of-school children.

Senator Sherry Rehman said after devolution, the provinces had passed four different laws.

She said there had been no prominent prosecution taking place in any of the provinces and work was being done in isolation. The public continues to stay disaffected because laws are not being implemented as per their spirit.

Senator Sitara Ayaz said figures should come from the government and for this there had to be a thorough study and survey. She said facilities and child protection centres were insufficient.

Senator Mushtaq Ahmed stressed the need for teacher training and curriculum modulation as well as constructive role of the media.

Responding to questions of the members, Minister Mazari said about a month ago, campaigns to prevent child abuse and spread awareness were launched on state-run television and through other material.

She said many problems stemmed from the anomaly that there was no unified definition of child. The Constitution itself speaks of two different ages to identify a child.

The minister said a survey on child labour statistics was being conducted in coordination with Unicef and this exercise was being done after 23 years.

She said work on these issues was far beyond the scope and power of her ministry and needed overlapping engagement of federal and provincial governments as well as joint efforts of different ministries.

The senators recommended putting the matter on the agenda of the Council of Common Interests so that provinces can be taken on board and issues can be resolved.

The human rights ministry officials told the meeting that an action plan on prevention of cases, protection and rehabilitation of children prepared by the ministry would be shared with the committee.

The capital police briefed the committee about mechanisms in place for receiving complaints and handling cases.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019