The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights raised seven legal objections over the Zainab Alert Bill on Wednesday and advised the relevant National Assembly committee to make further amendments before tabling it in the Senate. The Senate panel raised the objections despite Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari’s insistence that the bill be passed as soon as possible as it had been under consideration in the National Assembly’s human rights committee for eight months.
PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, who chairs the Senate panel on human rights, said that the committee had highlighted legal shortcomings in the proposed bill. In its recommendations, the panel said that the offences of child trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and kidnapping to gain property both moveable and immoveable should also be included in the bill.
Furthermore, the committee said that the sentence for slavery, kidnapping for ransom and torture should be different from the punishment for rape and murder. The panel also recommended that sections of Pakistan Penal Code and Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act should be made applicable in the proposed bill.
The term “child under eighteen years of age” be replaced with “child”, the panel said. The committee pointed out that the bill only applies to the Islamabad Capital Territory, while noting that it has definitions of crimes and proposes punishments, which would make it a criminal law. The panel recommended that the bill should either eliminate crime and punishment or be implemented across the country.
Khokhar said that the next meeting of the panel will be held on January 20 where the proposed amendments will be discussed. The Zainab Alert Bill, which addresses sexual crimes against children and proposes sentences for such offences, was passed by the National Assembly but was blocked in the Senate after PML-N Senator Mushahidullah Khan insisted that the bill be sent to the Senate committee.