ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Thursday criticised the US for including Pakistan in the United States Child Soldier Prevention Act list and called it politically motivated.
During the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, the members found the move disconcerting.
Senator Mushahid Hussain said he was disturbed over the ignorance of the US State Department.
“We should firmly put our case forward jointly with Turkey which has also been included in the list. A joint letter should be addressed to the US State Department in consultation with Foreign Office in order to resolve the issue at the earliest. This move can have long-term ramifications for US-Pakistan diplomatic as well as economic relations,” said Mr Hussain.
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari claimed that Pakistan army was a professional organisation and termed the act politically motivated.
Members of Senate body say Pakistan should take up case jointly with Turkey which is also included in list
She said recruitment in Pakistan armed forces is done through a competitive process voluntarily. Minimum age for recruitment is 16 years and the recruited personnel are not sent into combat until they turn 18 years old.
Dr Mazari said this was mala fide intent on part of the United States.
The chairman of the committee questioned the rationale behind the inclusion of Pakistan in such a list since there was no concept of any recognised militia or child soldiers in Pakistan.
The members also discussed the possibility of approaching the relevant committee of the US Congress on the matter.
The committee met under chairmanship of Senator Walid Iqbal and commenced with prayers for the deceased Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Gillani.
The members paid homage to the role played by Syed Ali Gillani for the Kashmir freedom movement.
Officials from the Ministry of Human Rights briefed the committee on harassment and public assault against Ayesha Akram at Minar-i-Pakistan, Lahore, on the Independence Day.
The committee was informed that Ministry with the Punjab police and a report had already been received regarding the progress in the case.
The report stated that the identification parade of 141 suspects arrested in the case was arranged on Wednesday and subsequently six suspects were identified by the victim. Nine suspects were identified through Nadra. Further investigation is ongoing to apprehend the remaining culprits.
Senator Faisal Sabzwari expressed concerns on the aftermath of the incident. He remarked that victim blaming was unfortunate.
“We need to focus on nation building and create a strong narrative to counter such moral policing. There is a need to create awareness among the masses through comprehensive communication/media campaigns on issues related to treatment of women in order to bring about a behavioural change in society” he said.
Senator Mushahid Hussain lamented that women were not safe even in Islamabad. Widespread prevalence of such cases showed that the system had failed to protect citizens.
The committee chairman said there was a need to educate men on respecting women without any preconditions through inclusion of relevant material in the curriculum. The chairman directed the ministry officials to keep a close eye on development in the case.
In her response, Dr Mazari said the Constitution accorded equal rights to all its citizens regardless of gender, caste, race or religion. Women rights were of paramount importance and women should be free to visit public places without any fear.
Members were also briefed on growing incidents of suicide in Chitral and surrounding areas.
The director general human rights said Chitral was notorious for a higher rate of suicide. One of the main reasons of the suicide is poverty as well as lack of job opportunities for youth of that area.
“Children are being pressured by parents to attain higher marks in examinations which is also exerting considerable stress on the minds of younger generations. Mental health issues are ignored and there is no infrastructure available for treatment of such individuals.”
The official said domestic violence was another big reason for higher suicide rate, especially among women of that area,” he said.
The minister for human rights informed the committee that her ministry was working on decriminalising suicide as it was being done throughout the world.
“Suicide is a medical issue not a criminal issue and it should be dealt accordingly,” she said.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021