Beleaguered future

Published November 20, 2022

IT is more than a case of not investing in Pakistan’s future; the state must be held responsible for the criminal neglect of its young ones. The evidence is all around us. More than half the country’s children are not in school — the second highest out-of-school population in the world. The standard of education has continually declined, to the extent that formal education is no guarantee for upward social mobility. Moreover, there has been no significant improvement in the health of mothers and infants, and the infant mortality rate remains high. About 40pc of the child population younger than five years is malnourished or stunted. Thousands of girls become child brides, continuing the cycle of poverty and ill health, while it is estimated that around 11m children — the third highest figure worldwide — remain trapped in labour across the country. Additionally, there has been a steep increase in cases of sexual and physical violence against children, and our existing legal mechanisms have proven insufficient to deter the abusers. In such dangerous conditions for the more than 92.5m children in the country, natural hazards, like this year’s floods, and other catastrophes have made the impact on their well-being worse.

Pakistan’s children are arguably the most marginalised segment of the population. With around 53pc of the citizenry under 19 years, the callous attitude of the state has robbed millions of their potential and killed aspirations. In other words, the country’s future has been severely compromised. So far, all international conventions pertaining to young lives, that Pakistan has agreed to implement, as well as national and provincial laws, have proven to be merely for show. Legal and institutional integration is required, along with considerable political will, to punish those who violate children’s rights. Today, as the world observes World Children’s Day, the government needs to pledge to do better by its children. Investing in our young ones will prove to be far more beneficial in the long run than any Faustian bargain.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2022

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