NA passes Zainab Alert Bill after Senate's amendments

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Zainab Alert, Recovery, and Response Bill, 2020, aimed at raising alert, as well as taking timely action, for the recovery of missing and abducted children.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari moved a motion for the bill to be considered as passed by the Senate with amendments. It would become an “Act of Parliament” when President ratifies it with his signature.
The House passed the motion and considered the bill as reported by the Senate. Investigations pertaining to all cases of kidnapping, rape, and murder of minor children would be required to completed within three months.
The Zainab Alert Bill would raise the required alerts and initiate adequate responses for the recovery of missing, abducted, abused or kidnapped children in Pakistan. It would also help provide a speedy system for the alerts, responses, recoveries, investigations, trails, and rehabilitation to prevent and curb child abuse.
The bill is set to ensure harmonisation and cohesion in the workings of the new agencies and institutions established for the protection of children and already existing mechanisms within the field.
According to bill, the maximum sentence handed down to child sexual abusers would be life imprisonment, with a Rs1-million fine while the minimum sentence would be 10 years.
It also suggested that Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) will be established, headed by a director-general who would be appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan in such manner and in such terms and conditions as may be prescribed the rules.
It demanded that the ZARRA’s management staff should be suitably equipped with skills of managing databases, conducting planning and monitoring of programs, analysing data, preparing reports, and coordinating with all other officers.
It suggested that the ZARRA work closely with the 1099 helpline 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, adding that those who fail to respond to the alert within two hours may also face action.
The local police and concerned law enforcement agencies shall on receipt of information would take immediate action and launch investigation, search, rescue and recovery operations.
ZARRA shall, wherever required, coordinate the efforts of the concerned police stations and other federal and provincial agencies, authorities or departments.
Upon receiving information that a child is missing, the officer in charge of a police station shall reduce the same into writing in the same book and in the same manner as prescribed for a cognizable offense under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and shall be under a duty to cause investigation of the same and recover the missing child and also ensure that the required information in Schedule A to this AC, is made part of the complaint.
Mazari, in this regard, thanked all the political parties for the supporting the bill. “I am pleased that all the political parties have supported the bill,” she said.
“I am also thankful to the Human Rights Committees of Senate and National Assembly for their support,” she added.

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