Senate body incorporates ATCs’ jurisdiction in Zainab Alert bill

Updated January 21, 2020

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Human rights functional committee chair says bill does not need to be redrafted by ministry, will be amended by members. — File
Human rights functional committee chair says bill does not need to be redrafted by ministry, will be amended by members. — File

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday decided to incorporate the jurisdiction of anti-terrorism courts (ATC) in the Zainab Alert bill so that it is implemented across the country and not just in Islamabad.

The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020 was tabled by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari as an administrative bill for the recovery of missing children.

However, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights incorporated the death penalty into the bill before it was passed by the lower house and sent to the Senate for consideration.

During the Senate committee meeting, chair Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar from the PPP said the bill was only meant for the Islamabad Capital Territory.

“I personally believe that cases regarding the abduction and exploitation of children should be heard in ATCs as we all know the situation of other courts. So we should create the jurisdiction of ATCs in the bill, as Article 143 of Constitution empowers parliament to enforce its laws across the country. Moreover, it is in the fourth schedule’s section 55 that parliament can enhance the jurisdiction of the courts apart from Supreme Court,” he said.

Human rights functional committee chair says bill does not need to be redrafted by ministry, will be amended by members

PTI Senator Dr Mehr Taj Roghani supported the proposal, adding a child was raped and killed in Nowshera just a few days ago.

“If we do the legislation just for the federal capital, the provinces may not do it for five years,” she said.

Mutahidda Qaumi Movement Senator Mohammad Ali Khan Saif also agreed and added that the definition of ‘child’ in the law should be changed to anyone below the age of 18, so that it was implemented in Pakistan in line with international definitions.

PTI Senator Faisal Javed, who initially said the bill should be passed without delay, later expressed support for the senators who wanted to expand the jurisdiction of the proposed law.

But PPP Senator Quratulain Marri opposed the suggestion, saying the bill should remain limited to the capital and the provinces should pass their own laws.

Senator Mohammad Usman Khan Kakar from the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party said the bill should be implemented across the country if provincial autonomy was not compromised.

Balochistan National Party Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, independent Senator Kamran Michael and PPP Senator Keshoo Bai also suggested implementing the law across the country.

Human Rights Ministry Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha said the bill would have to be rewritten, but the committee chair said the members would amend the bill and there was no need to send it back to the ministry to be redrafted.

ICT disability rights bill

Senator Khokhar decided to seek input from stakeholders while discussing The ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2020 during Monday’s meeting.

Federal Information Commissioner Zahid Abdullah, who is visually impaired, said the bill recommends forming a National Council for Disabled Persons (NCDP) that would address their issues, but there are no criteria for the selection of three members from the disabled community.

“I suggest that contempt powers should be given to the NCDP as it would require getting the documents and records from different government offices. Moreover, banks create hurdles in opening of bank accounts by visually impaired persons,” he said.

Salman Sidique, who works in Parliament House and is also visually impaired, said doctors do not give certificates to blind people who are fit to work.

He said the NCDP should issue certificates for people who are fit to work.

The committee decided to continue deliberations during its next meeting.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020