The Balochistan Assembly unanimously passed on Thursday a resolution to eradicate child labour in coal mines.
The assembly session was chaired by Deputy Speaker Sardar Khan and the resolution was presented by PkMAP member Nasarullah.
“Children under seven years of age work in different coal mines of Balochistan, which is not just a calamity, but a violation of the Child Act,” Nasarullah said.
Other lawmakers in the session said there is an urgent need to take action against coal mine owners who violate child protection laws so that underage children do not have to suffer.
Many children in Balochistan are forced to work at an early age at construction sites, coal mines or as garbage collectors. According to a 2013 report by the International Labour Organization, 500 children were working in coalmine in Loralai district alone. The Society for Empowering Human Resources estimated that 10,000 are child laborers in Quetta.
Balochistan does not have an effective legislation against child labour and has not set a higher minimum age for hazardous work.
The minimum age for admission to work under the Mines Act 1923 is 15 years and the minimum age for hazardous work is 14 years under the Employment of Children Act 1991, currently applicable in Islamabad, Balochistan and Sindh.
The Employment Of Children Act 1991 defines a “child” as a person under 14 years of age and an “adolescent” under 18 years of age. These definitions override the definitions in other labour laws of Pakistan.
The Constitution regards the minimum age as 14 years, but the 18th Amendment raised the minimum age to 16 years without amending the labour laws. Article 25(A) of the Constitution states that the state has to provide compulsory education to all children between the ages of five and 16 years. This means that a child below the age of 16 years of age can’t be allowed to work.
There are certain exceptions to the law as well. “No child has to be employed in any occupation, establishment or process defined as hazardous for children except where such process is carried by the family as a business or in any (training) school established, assisted and recognized by the government,” reads the Constitution.
The minimum age for children to work under newly enacted legislation is 14 years in KP and 15 years in Punjab. The minimum age for hazardous work still remains 14 in Balochistan and Islamabad, but has been raised to 18 years in KP, Punjab and Sindh.