Every child in Pakistan deserves the opportunity to learn and grow freely, irrespective of his/her caste or class. They have right to nourish in safe and healthy environment. No one can deprive them of their fundamental rights either state or any individual. November 20 is celebrated as Universal Day for Children all over the world every year. Pakistan seemed to have failed to protect the child rights. Sana Khawaja, the focal person of an NGO, said that around 2.5 billion children were out of schools in the world. They are deprived of education and health facilities as well, she added. Children work at hotels, workshops and other odd places.
According to the constitution of Pakistan, Article 25-A, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years.” But the situation on ground is totally different. No policy has been introduced by the government to protect children. Civil society is also concerned that despite visible incidents of violence against children, the provincial governments still could not introduce child protection policies followed by a comprehensive plan of action to ensure protection to children from all forms of abuse and exploitation, said by Iftikhar Mubarik, a children rights activist.
He added that the newly pledged Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) especially the 16.2 clearly asked the governments to take all possible legislative, administrative and other measures to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children. In addition, SDG 8.7 stresses to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms. Iftikhar demanded that provincial governments include the child domestic labour on the list of hazardous occupation, and put a complete ban on this contemporary form of slavery.
Salman Abid, a human rights activist, said Pakistan sanctioned the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) 26 year back, but the serious attention was not paid by federal and provincial governments. He demanded the government of Pakistan take immediate action regarding ‘The National Commission on the Rights of Children bill’ which was introduced in National Assembly back in March 2015. This bill is still pending with National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice. He urged the federal government to accelerate the process of enactment of legislation that protected the rights of children, and set up a sovereign commission on the rights of children.
Waheed Akhtar Ansari, director general, Social Welfare Punjab, rejected the allegations leveled by human rights activists. “It is myth now that government departments have not been working for the betterment of children. Government owns all the children of state and is busy protecting the children from violence and abuse,” he asserted.
According to him, the department has finalised the draft of Child Rights Commission (CRC). The draft has been sent to the federal government for its approval. Awareness of rights is very important for all citizens. By this commission, people and children will be educated and made aware of their rights. He said, “United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is extending help to our all care centres on different levels, including recreational, educational, professional training and vocational. NGOs and civil society both are playing nice role in the protection of children rights, he said.