At a hospital in Peshawar, a Pakistani relative holds actress Bushra who was burned in an acid attack on June 22, 2013. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Pakistan’s National Assembly on Tuesday passed ‘The Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2017’, which offers free medical treatment and rehabilitation for acid burn victims, who often face physical and psychological disability for the rest of their lives.

The acid and burn crime bill was one of the significant legislations passed along with several others on Tuesday.

The bill was moved in the lower house of Parliament by Federal Minister Marvi Memon, a vocal supporter of women’s rights.

Support for victims

“The purpose of the bill is to support the victims and bring to justice the culprits at the earliest,” Marvi Memon said, thanking the government and the opposition for supporting the imperative bill.

The bill aims at making provisions to specifically criminalise acid and burn-related violence by providing a fair and speedy trial of such heinous offences.

The proposed legislation offers free medical treatment and rehabilitation for acid burn victims, besides outlining a process for conducting trials of accused in the shortest possible time.

Marvi Memon, chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), said it took four years to pass the bill in its current form, and expressed hope that the bill would be also passed by the Senate.

She added that, with the introduction of this bill, acid-related crimes have declined and the Pakistani documentaries that won Oscar Award were also encouraged by such legislation.

Pakistani human rights activists hailed the passage of the landmark bill.

Valerie Khan, chairperson at Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) Pakistan, was delighted on the approval of long due legislation.

“It’s a very positive development that parliamentarians have realised the significance of the issue and agreed on a holistic approach to offer relief to the victims,” Khan told Gulf News.

Helping victims of violence

Details of the bill are yet to be made public but what makes it historic is the fact that “it addresses the need of the citizens who have been the victim of violence by offering them services including rehabilitation, reintegration and legal aid.”

The next step is the passage of from the upper house of the parliament.

“Once passed from Senate, the bill would go a long way to serve as an exemplary model for all the unacceptable forms of gender based violence in Pakistan” she hoped.

In Pakistan, acid attacks have decreased drastically, over the years because of increased awareness and fear of punishment. A 50 per cent decline was witnessed in acid crime cases across Pakistan since 2014 — the year which saw as many as 153 acid attacks.

A report by compiled by Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) along with other organisations reported a 54.9 per cent decrease was witnessed in 2015 while a drop of 51.91 per cent in the victims was seen in 2016.

However, unfortunately, the percentage of children victims of acid violence increased from 15 per cent in 2013 to 21.36 per cent in 2016, according to the report.

According to the latest data, 85 per cent of the acid attacks occurred in Punjab followed by Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.