LAHORE   -    A policy draft on child protection has been lying with the Child Protection & Welfare Bureau for one-and-a-half years without any progress on it.

A number of child abuse cases were reported in various cities of the province in recent months, but the policy draft had never been on the priority list of the Punjab government, whether former or incumbent, the sources said. The incumbent Punjab government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Punjab has been in power for 11 months now.

Last week, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar ordered effective measures to curb child sex and child pornography.

A number of incidents of child abuse were reported in the province in recent past. Minor Saima, who escaped from the house of MPA Mian Tahir Jamil in Faisalabad, is one of the victims of child abuse. Her father pleaded for justice against the MPA and his alleged accomplices linked to the rape, abuse and torture of the minor girl.

Two cases of torture and violence against children were reported recently. Body of a 14 years old housemaid was found in Ichhra on Sunday. An eight years old boy was murdered in Gujarat.

Prof Arshad Abbas, who works at Punjab University’s Social Work Department, said that child protection was a collective responsibility of every department. He is on the panel, which prepared draft of the child protection policy. The draft policy has been at the bureau’s desk for one-and-a-half yesar.

“For the last 70 years no child rights policy has been formulated in Punjab. We have highlighted the factors responsible for child abuse and given multiple recommendations to counter it. Except Zainab murder in Kasur, there was no incident that gained that much media attention or government’s attention,” he said.

Abbas was of the view that it was the need of the hour that the government should come up with a child protection policy.

According to a non-government organisation, Sahil, there was a surge of 11 per cent in cases of child abuse in 2018 (3,832) compared to 3,445 cases in 2017.

There are certain international obligations, which ought to be fulfilled by Pakistan on children rights. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on November 12, 1990. The convention makes it obligatory for Pakistan to make pro-children policies to save them from abuse and provide protection in post-abuse scenarios.

Human rights activist Hina Jillani said that child protection was not on priority list of the incumbent government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or the last government of the PML-N. “Focus is on making a policy, which will hold the abusers accountable. The government should resume its policymaking exercise on prevention of child abuse in the province,” she said.

Hina said that children admitted to government-run and private orphanages in the province were neglected in every respect and there should be a policy on them too.

When contacted, Punjab Child Protection & Welfare Bureau Chairperson Sarah Ahmed told The Nation that a draft document was sent to the Punjab Home Department two days ago for approval from Chief Minster’s Office.

“Punjab CM Usman Buzdar has called a meeting next week, specifically on child abuse incidents, which surfaced in the province in the last one week. He is determined to root out child abuse from the province,” she said.

Answering a query, she said the upcoming child protection policy was inclusive of both scenarios, eradication of child abuse and post-abuse rehabilitation.