Impacts and Implications of the 18th Amendment on Child Rights
Pakistan to fulfill obligations under international treaties: Ghurki
By: Yasir Ilyas
ISLAMABAD July 22, 2010: The 18th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Parliament with good intention would give dividends once a workable implementation mechanism is developed to fulfill Pakistan’s commitments and obligations under international conventions on child rights and other human rights convents and treaties.
This was the crux of a national consultation on ‘Child Rights in Pakistan: Impacts and Implications of the 18th Amendment’ organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) and Save the Children, Sweden here on Thursday.
Speaking at the consultation, the federal minister for social welfare and special education Samina Khalid Ghurki said Pakistan will honour its commitments on the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to protect children as the new amendment entrusts the federal government to take measures, to do legislation and to report back to the international community.
Ms. Ghurki said despite the fact that the power of legislation on the matters concerning child protection is transferred to the provinces after the 18th amendment, but the federal parliament will also legislate on such matters in its ambit and will be working with the provincial governments to ensure that international commitments are fulfilled.
She ensured the stakeholders that the fate of the bills regarding child protection which are pending in the federal parliament will be decided soon in the spirit of the 18th Amendment. They are: Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2009, National Commission on Rights of Children Bill 2009, The (Child Protection) Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2009 the charter of Child Rights Bill, 2009, and the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, 2010.
Earlier, Ms. Rubeena Qaimkhani, Chairperson Standing Committee on Social Welfare and Special Education said about 60 per cent of schools do not have electricity and more than 35 per cent schools do not have toilets for the children studying there. She exemplified Japan where children rights have a priority of the legislators despite political instability.
Arshad Mahmood, Executive Director SAPRC in his opening remarks said Article 25 (3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan recognizes special right of protection for children due to their vulnerability. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), duly ratified by Pakistan on November 12, 1990, makes it obligatory on the States to take all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights enshrined in the Convention.
Mehmmod Asghar, Country Director ‘Save the Children’ Sweden, feared that due to transfer of legislative powers regarding child rights to the provincea might create a situation where there would be no equity among the provinces on child protection. He called for a mechanism that conforms to the international obligations by the state of Pakistan. He said though it is good that under the 18th Amendment, Article 25-A recognizes right to education of every child from 5 to 16 years as fundamental right, but the question arises as to how this right would be trickled down to every child.
Qindeel Shujaat, Executive Director Child Rights Legal Center, expressed his concern on the post-18th Amendment scenario in which even the Employees of the Federal Departments/Divisions dealing with child rights have no clarity as how things will function after June 2011. He called for evolving a mechanism to coordinate, implement, and monitor International Treaties.
He suggested that Human Rights should be included in Federal Legislative List and National Commission on Child Welfare and Development (NCCWD) may be merged with Ministry of Human Rights. The Federal Government should play a policy making role on critical issues and review, revise and notify new Rules of Business for Federal and Provincial Departments/Divisions dealing with child rights.
Ahmar Bilal Sufi, International Law expert was of the view that even after the 18th Amendment, the state of Pakistan will be responsible for its international commitments and obligations towards protection of children and any legal mechanism thereof. However, Barrister Zaffarullah Khan suggested that both the Federal and Provincial Governments should in their ambit do necessary legislation to protect the rights of the children. He was of the view that there would be a need for another amendment in the constitution to meet with the international obligations.