Author Rana Tassawar Ali on December 27 2013: In Pakistan in 2013, "The Year of the Rights of the Child" was declared by our former Prime Minister. The day was memorable as INGOs [international non-governmental organisations] and national NGOs called this a big achievement toward the current state of children in Pakistan. Our Prime Minister during the address emphasised the government’s commitment to continue its activities for child rights and child protection and claimed that children are the future of our nation. It is they who will take up leadership roles and serve this country. When we invest in our children, we invest to secure our own future.
The Prime Minister’s statement and declaration were only a false hope for Pakistani children because no single State department started work for the betterment of children; the human rights, education, health and social welfare departments did not show any concern regarding child rights and their welfare. In Pakistan, the legislation on child rights issues has been ever ignored by lawmakers, and the state of children in the country is at its worst. There are more than 20.5 million children out of school in Pakistan, and 10.2 million of them are engaged in child labor where they are exploited, abused, tortured and killed, according to the CRM (child rights movement) of Pakistan. In our country, although the bill for Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act was passed in 2012 by both houses of Parliament, yet the law is not enforceable in ICT as the rules have not been made explicit for the enforcement and implementation of the law.
In an overall analysis of the year 2013, there is no single evidence that government of Pakistan has started work for child rights legislation. The current government did not put child rights at the priority level, and there is no agenda of this government to promote and protect child rights. The roles of civil society in Pakistan and the international community are appreciated by the people of Pakistan, but, for child rights promotion and as a pressure group, civil society seems divided. Only CRM (child rights movement) work and effort are very appreciable, and, in the regime of previous governments, CRM built a huge pressure on the State for improving the situation of children in the country.
Despite the declaration of 2013 as “The Year of the Rights of the Child” by the country’s premier last year, the responsibility of the current government is to take significant steps for protection of child rights at the policy and legislation level. We are hopeful that if the government takes significant steps for protection and implementation of child rights, this will be a step towards fuelling the future of a progressive and democratized Pakistan. It is a time for the State to realize and understand its responsibility for implementation of child rights in the country, where all children should enjoy their UNCRC [United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child]-elaborated rights.