The Ministry of Human Rights in Islamabad has finally notified National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) after over a year of the enactment of the law concerned and persistent demands by child rights activists.

The then government had enacted the National Commission on the Rights of the Child Act, 2017, in Sept 2017, for establishment of the commission having multiple functions. Although, all the four provincial governments as well as Islamabad Capital Territory are having separate child protection laws, this act is applicable to the entire country.

A notification was issued on Feb 28 for constituting the NCRC having a development expert Ms Afshan Tehseen as its chairperson and members from the four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory. Two children have also been named as members of the commission.

The law provides that the commission’s chairperson should be a citizen of Pakistan of not less than 45 years of age, having work experience of minimum 15 years in the field of child rights. Similarly, the members representing the provinces shall be having at least 10 years’ experience in child rights.

The notified members are: Dr Rubina Fareed from Islamabad, Mohammad Hashim Kakar from Baluchistan, Jahanzeb Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Rubina Feroz Bhatti from Punjab, Iqbal Ahmad Detho from Sindh and Tajdar Qureshi Hashmi and Ms Faryal Javed as child members.

While some of these members are least heard of in the field of child rights, the members Jahanzeb Khan and Iqbal Ahmad Detho are known activists. Jahanzeb is the regional head of Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) in KP. Similarly, Iqbal Ahmad Detho is a known social activist having expertise in different fields specially child rights and international human rights law.

This commission is also having the chairpersons of the provincial commissions on the rights of the child, National Commission on the Status of Women and National Commission for Human Rights as its ex-officio members.

Important functions of the commission include: to examine existing or proposed legislations and administrative instruments and proposals related to child rights and make such recommendations as it deems appropriate; to liaise with provincial commissions set up under provincial laws and other concerned provincial organizations; to examine and review any law or policy or practice for protection of child rights and recommend measures for their effective implementation; to inquire into violation of child rights and recommend to the relevant agency or department initiation of proceedings in such cases; to spread awareness and promote dialogue on child rights among various sections of the society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for protection of these rights; to examine international instruments and undertake periodical review of existing policies and programmes on child rights and make recommendations for their effective implementation in the best interest of children; etc.

“In the present situation with growing cases of violence against child frequently reported from different parts of the country, the establishment of this commission has assumed a lot of importance,” said known child rights activist Imran Takkar adding that it was need of the hour to strengthen this commission so that it should not be dependent on donors for its functioning.

He said that this commission had to coordinate with the provincial bodies on child rights so as to effectively implement different child-related laws enacted by the federal and provincial governments. Moreover, the setting up of the commission was in accordance with international obligations and it should take measures for implementation of different international treaties on the subject.

Apart from the setting up of this commission it is also necessary that the provincial government should implement the laws in each of the four provinces. There is no uniform law on child protection in the provinces and under the laws enacted in the provinces and for Islamabad Capital Territory, there are different bodies for child protection.

Punjab was the first province where a law on child protection, The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, was enacted in 2004.

The Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act, 2004, deals with a variety of issues related to child protection. Under this law a child protection and welfare bureau has to be set up with wide ranging functions. The bureau has also to set up child protection institutions in different areas.

The bureau shall be having a board of governors with the Punjab chief minister as its patron-in-chief and a director general of the bureau as its secretary.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa enacted the KP Child Protection and Welfare Act (KPCPWCA), 2010. This act provides for setting up of several child protection bodies including the Child Protection and Welfare Commission, child protection units on district level, child protection institute etc.

The commission shall be having multiple members with the provincial minister for social welfare as its chairman and the chief protection officer as secretary of the commission.

However, for the last many years the post of chief protection officer has been lying vacant, whereas child protection units on district level are also non-functional.

Following KP, the Sindh Assembly had also passed the Sindh Child Protection Authority Act, 2011, which was given assent by the governor in Jun 2011. This law makes it binding on provincial government to establish Sindh Child Protection Authority, which is chaired by minister for social welfare, and is having multiple functions.

The authority has to set up child protection units and also appoint child protection officers in different areas. However, this law is not as comprehensive as that of KP and Punjab.

In Balochistan, the Balochistan Child Protection Act, 2016, was enacted in Nov 2016. This law envisages setting up of a child protection commission on provincial level and district child protection units on district level. The minister social welfare or advisor social welfare shall be the chairperson of this commission.

Similarly, The Islamabad Capital Territory Child Protection Act, 2018, was published in official Gazette on May 24, 2018. This law provides for setting up of Islamabad Capital territory Child Protection Advisory Board. The secretary of the concerned division shall be the chairperson of the board whereas the minister-in-charge shall be its patron.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2020

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