NA subcommittee approves drafts of Zainab Alert, disability rights bills

Updated June 20, 2019

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Parliamentarians suggest rigorous imprisonment for life in child sexual assault and murder cases instead of 14 years. — Dawn/File
Parliamentarians suggest rigorous imprisonment for life in child sexual assault and murder cases instead of 14 years. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body has approved the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019, with recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

At a meeting of a subcommittee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights, its chair Dr Mahreen Razaq Bhutto said: “The purpose is to stop the crime and protect our children in the future. One of the main focuses was on the punishment for molesting and murdering children. It is a special law, therefore the punishment is especially harsh. The purpose is to make such convicts realise their unforgivable crime in the harshest conditions until the day they die.”

The subcommittee has discussed the Zainab Alert Bill and the Islamabad Capital Territory Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2018 in five consecutive meeting. The recommendations will now be discussed by the standing committee for further changes, if needed.

Parliamentarians suggest rigorous imprisonment for life in child sexual assault and murder cases instead of 14 years in prison or death

Parliamentarians observed that cases of child sexual assault and murder are on the rise. They said that in most cases the assaulters are close relatives, which is why most incidents go unreported.

The committee recommended replacing the original sentence of 14 years in prison or the death penalty with rigorous imprisonment for life, without the option of bail, in such cases. Members also suggested amending Pakistan Penal Code section 182 to accelerate decisions in cases of offences against children within three months rather than the original six.

Dr Bhutto said that the draft of the Zainab Alert bill has now been properly structured to address every issue with terms such as alert, rape, rescue and kidnapping.

“The subcommittee has also suggested a one-window operation where the [aggrieved] party can register their child as missing within two hours. We have also ensured that the [aggrieved] party is not mistreated, as was seen in the case of Farishta whose family members were not only mistreated by police but also did not register the case for three days. We have recommended punishments for staff who mistreat the [aggrieved] party,” Dr Bhutto said.

One passed by parliament, the bill will pave the way to set up the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert.

The bill will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children to prevent incidents such as the murder of Zainab, a nine-year-old from Kasur.

The subcommittee also approved the draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill after proposing more than 25 recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints, among others.

“It took 70 years to make a proper bill for persons with disabilities. This bill will bring significant changes in their lives concerning their rights,” Dr Bhutto said.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2019