26 June, 2011

National Conference on Child Rights as Human Rights

Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD - Basic right of education has been recognized by Pakistani leadership under Article 25 (A) of the Constitution which states that education has been made free and compulsory to all children of the age of five to sixteen years, said Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan. She was speaking at ‘National Conference on Child Rights as Human Rights - Post 18th Amendment Scenario’ on Saturday in Islamabad. “There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children” said the Speaker quoting Kofi Annan (former UN Secretary General) and she added that “every time a child is deprived the right to education, this trust is breached.”
The long-awaited conference on child rights was organized by Ms. Rubina Qaimkhani, Parliamentary Secretary on Human Rights providing an opportunity for the lawmakers and civil society to discuss the plight of millions innocent and vulnerable children of Pakistan.

The speakers agreed that there is a need of enhanced coordination between provinces and federation in the post 18th Amendment to achieve the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the year 2015, which bind us to eradicate poverty and hunger, reduce the child and maternal mortality rates, ensure universal education and guarantee child health.
Ms. Fehmida Mirza disclosed that “National Assembly has decided to constitute a Special Parliamentary Committee on MDGs,” which would address Child Rights issues and “there also can be a Sub-Committee especially for the Children”.

Ms. Rubina Qaimkhani stressed to revitalize the child rights mechanisms at federal and provincial level to effectively supervise, and report progress on UN Convention on the child rights. She invited the civil society members and media to jointly put forward the child rights agenda as human rights.

Karen B. Allen, Deputy Country representative, UNICEF highly appreciated Pakistan’s recent step to ratify United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) optional protocol dealing with child pornography, the sale and prostitution of children. She recalled that “Pakistan was one of the first countries to ratify UNCRC back in 1990.”

Speaking at the occasion, Zamurrud Khan, Chairman Pakistan Bait-ul-Maal pledged to end child labour from Islamabad within next three months to make the capital city a role model for other cities.

The conference was attended by Provincial Ministers, Parliamentarians, and civil society organizations including Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Advisor to PM on Human Rights; Barrister Zafarullah Khan; Zia Ahmed Awan, Advocate; M. Akhtar Buland Rana, Secretary Human Rights; and Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali.

Zafarullah Khan pointed out that “there is no single comprehensive law on child in Pakistan” while giving a presentation on ‘Post 18 Amendment – Child rights legal position’. He urged the government to initiate non-custodial and adoption laws and to remove contradictory laws.

The concluding session of the conference was addressed by Raza Rabani, Chairman 18th Amendment Implementation Commission who said that under the 18th amendment “provinces have been fully empowered to under-take the subjects of abolished concurrent list for improving the situation of children.