MARDAN: Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth on Saturday inaugurated two child protection courts in Mardan and Abbottabad districts and said those courts would provide justice to the children in contact or conflict with the law.
Accompanied by child rights activists, judicial officers, lawyers and civil society members, the chief justice inaugurated the Mardan court in the morning and Abbottabad court afterward.
These courts have been empowered by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Child Protection and Welfare Act, 2010, and Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018.
The first child protection court was inaugurated in Peshawar on March 16.
Both Mardan and Abbottabad child courts have colourful walls, handmade drawings, toys, books, swings, green environment and games to create a child-conducive environment.
The high court has posted additional district and sessions judges Faryal Zia Mufti and Syed Iftikhar Shah as presiding officers to the Mardan and Abbottabad child courts, respectively.
Imran Takkar, programme coordinator officer at the Group Development Pakistan (GDP), told Dawn that 24 other judicial officers, including 12 additional district and sessions judges and judicial magistrates each, four government officials and 16 prosecutors were trained on child rights and child justice by the GDP in Sept to create and sustain a pool of expert judicial officers for appointment to child courts across the province.
Meanwhile, PHC registrar Khawaja Wajihuddin told a news conference here that the establishment of three child courts in the province was just a beginning.
“The judiciary is committed to establishing child courts in all divisional headquarters in the first phase and in all districts in the second,” he said.
The registrar said the government had rejected the high court’s request to allocate additional seats for judges to be appointed to child courts in every district but the latter would continue pursuing the matter.
He said the primary role of child courts was to ensure the protection of children from maltreatment, violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
The registrar said Peshawar’s child court had dispensed justice to 243 children.
He said 137 criminal cases were put to trial, 77 child offenders were granted bail, 10 people were convicted for violence against children, six juvenile offenders were freed, and 16 were acquitted. The registrar said regular jail visits were made to monitor the status of 64 detainees in juvenile barracks at Peshawar’s central jail.
He thanked the GDP and British High Commission for providing technical and financial support to the initiative.
GDP executive director Valerie Khan praised the province’s judiciary for ‘visionary and proactive attitude’.
“If we look at objective performance indicators, KP’s judiciary has been the best in the country with regard to the implementation of not only the Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018, but also child protection laws.”
She said the National Judicial Policy Making Committee agreed in its June 24 meeting to establish pilot child courts in all provincial headquarters and nominate judicial officers to be trained by the GDP.
The GDP executive director praised Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khan Khosa for giving an institutional voice to the plea of children.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019