Islamabad: Child rights activists, members of civil society and public at large have welcomed the passage of the Zainab Alert Bill from the National Assembly of Pakistan on January 9, 2020 — exactly two years after the tortured body of six-year old Zainab was found in 2018 from Kasur, a district in Northern Punjab.
She was subjected to physical assault and later murdered by her rapist.
After travelling from one committee to another and seeing much debate and delay, the bill has been finally approved by the Lower House of Parliament and is now heading to the Senate of Pakistan for the Upper House’s nod.
Under The Zainab Alert, Recovery and Response Bill, 2019 the maximum sentence handed down to perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be life imprisonment with a fine of Rs1 million (Dirham 23,773.60) while the minimum sentence will be 10 years.
Further, a helpline will also be established to report missing children while an agency, for issuing an alert for missing children, will also be set up.
While hailing the passage of the bill from the National Assembly as a landmark step in struggle against child abuse, the rights activists of Pakistan have called for a quick passage from rest of the forums too (Senate and then President of Pakistan) to convert the bill into law.
While talking to Gulf News, eminent human rights activist of Pakistan Tahira Abdullah said, the Zainab Alert Bill is many years late, but “better late than never”.
“I hope the Senate will pass it very soon. Once it becomes law, it is the responsibility of the government to make a strong policy and programme to implement it, along with the required budget allocations and trained staff, especially the Police forces,” said Abdullah.
Another HR activist working for child protection and women rights, Valerie Khan said the government was on the right track and it is hoped the Senate would also give a swift support to the bill
“We are now waiting for the official notification by the Prime Minister regarding 5 years action plan on child rights from the MoHR so that a systemic, technical and coordination action can take place to protect children,” said Valerie Khan.
Zainab’s rape and murder in 2018 had sparked outrage and protests across the country after she was found dead on a trash heap in Kasur on January 9, 2018.
She was left by her parents in her maternal aunt’s care as they had gone to perform Umrah.
Her rapist, a neighbour, was later convicted for her rape and murder and was hanged to death in October 2018 in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Central Jail in presence of her father and uncle.