Zainab alert bill | Pakistan Today

Zainab alert bill

  • Not nearly enough, but a start

The National Assembly’s passage of the Zainab Alert Bill after its introduction last year, and two years after a little girl, the late Zainab, was kidnapped and murdered in Kasur, in a case that shocked the nation, and led to a massive manhunt ending in the arrest of her killer, and his swift trial and execution, came after it had engaged in passing other more seemingly important legislation. The Bill was not given the same fast-track procedure leading to ‘crucial’ amendment acts going to the Senate at once, and being passed the next day. Instead, it will go the Senate in its turn, be referred to committee, which will then report it back in its own good time, and only then be presented to the House for passage.

Though there is no urgency shown, there should be. The need to fast-track such legislation would be felt only if such cases were agitating the public, which frankly they are not. This does not mean that they are not happening, because they are. They have not only been reported from madrassahs, which have long housed abusers, but the new Child Welfare Bureaus as well. They may not have provoked the sort of avid interest, or displays of support, that the Zainab case did, but the new law will help, once it is passed by the Senate. It is to be presumed that Senators, who have been holding up legislation because the government lacks a majority there, will get this legislation through at the earliest.

One possibility that needs examination by all those who want to prevent sexual abuse of children is the preparation of a national register of sex offenders, which will be provided not just to police stations, but also to schools and other places where children gather. Such a register will be an important first step in identifying offenders. There should also be a requirement for offenders to undergo some form of treatment, for it should be accepted that abusers often need treatment, not just punishment. After all, the purpose is to keep everyone’s children safe, not just those whose parents are rich or powerful.