The meeting of the Senate Special Committee on the Issue of Increasing Incidents of Child Abuse was held on Tuesday. Convened by Senator Nuzhat Sadiq; the meeting was attended by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed, Senator Sitara Ayaz , Senator Sherry Rehman and senior officers of NADRA, National Police Bureau, the Ministry of Human Rights along with all concerned. Representatives of UNICEF were present as well.
The meeting commenced with a briefing by NADRA. While discussing the issue of registration of children with unknown parentage, NADRA informed the Committee that the system selected names at random and those children were added to the family tree of the selected person. He said that this was done without informing the family.
Senator Sitara Ayaz stressed that selecting names at random was a major loophole on the behalf of NADRA and that this issue must be addressed, especially due to the fact that this was done without the knowledge of those selected. Senator Raza Rabbani was of the opinion that this could lead to major issues with respect to succession and inheritance.
Convener Committee, Senator Nuzhat Sadiq showed displeasure regarding lack of preparedness and coordination between key agencies that was imperative for the protection of child rights in Pakistan.
Secretary Ministry of Human Rights, Ms Rabia Javaria Agha was of the view that if any progress is to be made fundamental issues must be addressed and that the tendency for agencies to work in seclusion must be curbed. The situation of the child is despicable, she said. Quoting Article 25 A of the Constitution, Ms Agha said that it states that the government is to provide mandatory education for every child up to the age of 16 years. She further stated that according to Article 11 C of the Constitution the age limit has been shortened to 14 years, so there is contradiction within the Constitution on the definition of a child. Ms Agha further stated that children require an identity and added that basic birth registrations are just 30 percent in Pakistan. Children who have no birth registrations cannot be found and in case of abuse cannot have their complaints registered. She praised the Unicef for working towards birth registrations, because that is the basic in acknowledging a child’s identity.
Silvia Pasti, Chief Child Protection Program, Unicef said that this is program commenced in 2018. While working on this program the Unicef took into consideration the rights of the child. She said that the main issue faced by them was lack of evidence of abuse that children face in this country. She said that one big pillar of the program is to support the government to generate evidence which will assist policy making regarding this severe issue in Pakistan. She said that the Unicef, Child Protection Program plans to conduct a survey in all the provinces of Pakistan on violence against children and the economic exploitation of the child in Pakistan.
The Committee showed dismay that various agencies were not on one page and there was overlapping in the system. It was recommended that all agencies work collectively to save time and that a sub-committee be formed to sort out overlap of efforts. It was also recommended that it must be determined that whether or not departments working under provinces are coordinating with each other. The sub-committee must work out ways in which inter-linking of departments is encouraged. A structure must be formed to address these issues effectively and check whether or not the mechanism works.