ISLAMABAD: The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday decided to extend the jurisdiction of ‘Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2020’ across the country.

Earlier, it was limited to Islamabad.

Moreover, the committee approved setting up of special courts to decide cases regarding missing children in three months.

The committee also decided to bind an station house officer (SHO) to register the FIR straightaway after receiving a complaint, failing which they would face up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs100,000. In case of both, the SHO would lose his job.

The bill, tabled by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, was an administrative bill for the rescue and recovery of missing children.

Approves setting up of special courts to decide cases in three months

It was named after nine-year-old Zainab Ansari, who was murdered after being raped in Kasur in 2018.

It suggested that a cell or body would be established to deal with the incidents of child kidnapping and rape cases.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights, while passing the bill, incorporated the death penalty in the bill and sent it to the upper house for consideration.

During the last several meetings, members of the Senate committee suggested that the bill should have jurisdiction across the country. However, PPP Senator Quratulain Marri had opposed the suggestion and said the bill should be limited to the federal capital and provinces should pass their own bills otherwise it would be a violation of the 18th Amendment.

On Monday, during a meeting held at Parliament House, committee Chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokharof the PPP said the bill would be made more effective to control incidents of child kidnapping and rapes.

After getting input from the ministries of human rights, law and justice as well as independent legal experts, it was decided that the bill would have jurisdiction across the country.

Moreover, the Ministry of Human Rights would set up Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (Zarra) which would be headed by a director general. Names of applicants for the post of DG would be placed before the prime minister.

Mr Khokhar said mostly FIRs regarding missing children were delayed as police remained unaware of sections which should be included in FIRs.

“In Islamabad, 10-year-old Farishta was abducted and murdered in May 2019 but police did not register an FIR for two days and also misbehaved with the missing child’s father,” he said.

PTI legislator Prof Dr Mehr Taj Roghani said imprisonment and fines for negligent police officials should be made mandatory to make them behave with complainant.

It was decided that Zarra would not be empowered to investigate and recover children.

Members decided to continue considering the bill during the next meeting and directed the ministry to submit an amended draft of the bill as well.

Later, Mr Khokhar told Dawn that 80pc of the bill was discussed on Monday and remaining 20pc, which related to new criminal offences, would be discussed at the next meeting.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2020