A special report on the Zainab Alert Bill, 2019 was presented to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee for Human Rights on Thursday. The bill will pave the way to set up the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency where cases of children’s disappearances will be reported.
The bill was passed on October 8, 2019. Its aim is to introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.
The report asks for the management of the agency to be equipped with skills to manage databases, monitoring programmes, analyse data, prepare reports and coordinate with other officers.
The agency should also closely work with the 1099 helpline and other helplines in several districts. When a complaint is made via these helplines, it should be immediately transferred to the agency so an investigation can immediately begin. The report was presented by a member of the committee, Shazia Marri of the PPP.
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was also present during the meeting.
It was suggested that those law enforcers who are not helping the families of victims should be punished. A trial within three months should be completed, suggested the report.
At the end of the meeting, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari requested the chair of the committee to consider the bill by January 10. “It has already gotten too late,” she said.
Zainab Alert has been named after seven-year-old Zainab Ansari who was raped and murdered in Kasur. Her case sparked national outrage and a conversation about child abuse.
The agency will operate out of Islamabad and engage the PTA, social media and other institutions to create a helpline and SMS service to spread information about missing children.
Special teams, called MCRRTs, will be set up and headed by a senior police officer. These teams will work with the local police in the cases of missing children.
The bill has proposed the death sentence, life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to 14 years for people who abduct children.