As of 2017, almost every major lawmaking body in Pakistan has a bill in legislative limbo that deals with deplorable practice of acid attacks on women. These bills were introduced at various times - 2012 in Punjab, 2013 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 2013 in Sindh, and 2016 in Balochistan. But the end result is the same; disinterest by lawmakers have allowed these bills to lapse into obscurity, and continual misery for acid attack victims, who desperately require government intervention and legal reform to help them.

On Friday the National Assembly’s Sub-Committee of the Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control adopted the Acid and Burn Crime Bill 2014, which means that the bill will soon be tabled in the floor of the parliament for discussion. It is hoped that this law diverts the attention of the parliamentarians from political squabbling, long enough to garner a discussion, and eventually to make it to law- not least because this is an excellent bit of legislation that needs to be implemented.

Previous bills, such as the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2011, strengthened the court’s ability to convict by making the crimes non-compoundable and non-bailable - the conviction rate has tripled since then - but a complete solution requires us to look towards the victims too. The new bill further strengthens the trial elements of this crime but it’s main focus is on providing relief to the victims who suffer a lifetime of pain and humiliation, and mountain of medical expenses, and a drastic drop in employment opportunities.

As such the bill offers free medical treatment and rehabilitation for acid burn victims and legally binds medical practitioners to inform law enforcement agencies and take photographic evidence of injuries in acid attacks. It also provides interim monetary relief to victims for expenses and losses incurred besides penalising abettors. It also provides protection for witnesses, legal aid and financial support for the victims and their dependants.

The only drawback to this otherwise commendable bit of drafting is that the law would only be applicable to the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), and not the country at large. It is hoped by the backers of this bill that it “will serve as a model for the rest of the nation” but leaving this crucial bit of legislation up to individual provincial assemblies and hoping it comes out in this exact form is asking for too much - especially seeing the fate of previous attempts.

Making this law a federal bill must be a priority. Unless this debate is forced upon the provinces it is unlikely they would take it up on their own.