Deputy Speaker NA hopeful for NCRC’s Oversight Role for Protection of Child Rights

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Islamabad, October 5, 2021: The Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Muhammad Qasim Suri has said that it’s unfortunate that 25 million children are out of schools in the country and collective efforts and reallocation of resources is required to provide opportunity of education to these children. Equally important is to bring an end to violence and exploitation of children who are future of our society.

He made these remarks while delivering key note speech at Strategic Planning Consultative Workshop of National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) at a local hotel on Tuesday.

“No nation can progress without fulfilling the needs of its children and providing them safe and secure place in the society,” he added.

Mr. Sauri said that the National Assembly has passed landmark bills such as Zainab Alert and would not hesitate to enact more laws if and when required. He appreciated his party’s government for establishing the NCRC, which he hoped would play an oversight role for the protection of child rights in the country.

Deputy Speaker also highlighted the importance of the unified curriculum, introduced by the PTI government and said he believed that it would bring an end to various education systems in the country. He said that the parents who send their child to schools will receive Rs. 1500 and Rs. 2000 as a stipend for a boy and girl respectively. This is to support and encourage those who cannot send their children to school.

Mr. Lal Malhi, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights in his speech said that the ministry has established various commissions and authorities aimed at promotion and protection of human rights in the country. “Child rights are on our priority and establishment of the NCRC is reflection of the government’s intent and commitment,” he added.

Mr. Malhi said that his government is committed to establish proper institutions to find lasting solutions rather than depending on adhoc fixes. “Prime Minister wants to see actual reforms,” he added.

Dr. Muhammad Raheem, another key speaker and Director General of Law and Justice Authority suggested the NCRC to adopt a collaborative approach and prepare a national database on child rights, building up on already done work. He said that the Law and Justice Commission has already done a lot of work and commission needed to build on that. He suggested that the NCRC should work for scaling up the establishment of guardian courts and engage with judiciary on the key reforms required.

Earlier, in her introductory speech Ms Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson of NCRC, said that children make up significant percentage of the population but their voices are not heard in the policymaking processes. She added that there is hardly any law and policy to take care of an estimated 25 million out-of-school children, most of whom end up as street children.

The budget preparation process is also child blind as we do not see children related allocations. She suggested that a dedicated Child Rights Ministry should be established so that child rights related matters are discussed frequently and reach to prime minister in timely manner.

“At least have a Child Rights Advisor be appointed immediately.”

The NCRC chairperson said that children are the most important asset of any society and needed attention at all levels including in policy making.

“It is important to ensure genuine and meaningful participation of children at all government functions.” She assured that the Commission, with limited resources would not leave a stone unturned in resolving child rights issues in the country.

Dr. Rubina, an NCRC member from ICT said that the Commission is already mapping children rights related matters in the capital territory and working closely with the local authorities to find proper solution.

“Issues of differently-able children require immediate attention,” she urged.

Two Child members of the Commission Tajdar and Faryal underlined the need for participation and inclusion of children in all matters.

Other stakeholders including officials from the ministry of foreign affairs, human rights, establishment division, Ombudsman office, police, international organizations such as ILO and members of civil society and lawyers’ groups who participated in the consultation suggested the NCRC to strengthen inter-provincial coordination on child rights in the country and improve Pakistan’s international reporting on the subject.

They also underscored the need for a broader awareness of child rights in the country and sensitization of the main stakeholders responsible for providing various services to children.

They asked the Commission to pro-actively take action in cases of child abuses and do not wait for anyone to report. They were of the view that the NCRC Act 2017 provides the Commission ample powers to protect child rights.

They also suggested that the Commission should also work and provide recommendations for avoiding duplication of roles of various organizations and institutions responsible for child rights. They suggested that child labour, lack of education, child abuse should be addressed on a priority basis.

The NCRC should also develop a digitalized coordination among the stakeholders. The NCRC should also maintain a national database on child rights related indicators and share it with various stakeholders for the informed policy decisions.

This can be done in collaboration with NADRA. They also demanded the establishment of a National Helpline for ensuring timely assistance to children who are victims of abuse and publish a directory of organizations and government departments working on child rights and providing various services.

They also suggested that the Commission should focus on awareness-raising, review of child rights-related laws and provide assistance to the government in implementation on international treaties specifically the UN Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC).

The consultation was informed that the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) was formally notified in February 2020. It was a major milestone towards the fulfilment of the country’s international commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and national level constitutional provisions.

The Commission, with a mandate to the promotion and protection of the rights of a child, was a long-standing demand of Child Rights stakeholders.

The NCRC falls under the scope of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to which people in general and civil society, in particular, attach great expectations.

The NCRC is an independent oversight body with a mandate for fulfilment of child rights as provided in the international treaties and Pakistan’s legal framework through monitoring, complaint handling, policy and legislative reforms, research and awareness-raising.

The Commission comprises Chairperson, five permanent members — one each from four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), two Child members and ex-officio members. The Commission Secretariat is located in Islamabad.

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