The National Assembly unanimously passed the Zainab Alert, Recovery and Response Bill, 2019 aimed at raising an alert, response, and recovery of missing and abducted children.
The bill was tabled in the previous assembly by lawmaker Asad Umer but it lapsed after completion of the tenure of the House on May 31, 2018. The government moved the same bill on April 24, 2019, which was referred to a Standing Committee on Human Rights.
After detailed deliberations, the report of the committee on the bill was presented in the House on January 9, 2020, which subsequently led to the passage of the bill on January 10, 2020. Standing Committee on Human Rights member Dr. Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto said that the bill had been passed on the second death anniversary of the nine-year-old victim whose body was found from Kasur in 2018 after rape and murder.
She dedicated the bill to children and said that this legislation will help to secure children and speedy justice to victims. Speaking in the National Assembly, Minister for Planning, Development, and Reforms Asad Umar said that all cases involving the kidnapping, rape, and murder of minor children will be required to complete investigations within three months.
He hoped that the Senate would also take up the bill immediately and pass it which is aimed at protecting the country’s minor children. The bill will raise the required alerts and initiate responses required for the recovery of missing, abducted, abused or kidnapped children in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
It will help to provide speedy system for alerts, responses, recoveries, investigations, trails, and rehabilitation to prevent and curb criminal activities against the ch
children. It will also ensure harmonization and cohesion in the workings of the agencies and institutions established for the protection of children and already exacting mechanisms within this field.
ZAINAB ALERT, RESPONSE AND RECOVERY AGENCY
According to the bill, the maximum sentence handed down to perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be life imprisonment with a fine of one million rupees while the minimum sentence will be 10 years. It also suggested that Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) will be established headed by a director-general – to be appointed by the prime minister – in such manner and in such terms and conditions as may be prescribed the rules.
It demanded that the management staff of the recommended agency should be suitably equipped with skills of managing databases, conducting planning and monitoring of programs, analyzing data, preparing reports and coordinating with all other officers. It suggested that ZARRA shall work closely with the helpline 1099 or such other helpline operating under the mandate of the division concerned.
In this regard, the helpline shall forward complaints relevant to the mandate of ZARRA, which shall be acted upon in partnership between ZARAA and the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) established under the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017.
The bill also proposed taking action against police officials who cause unnecessary delay in investigating such cases and those who fail to respond to the alert within two hours may also face action. The lawmakers congratulated the House on the passage of the bill and thanked the committee including Dr. Mahreen Razzaq Bhutto for their support and hard work on improving this legislative proposal.