The parliament has passed the Zainab Alert, Response, and Recovery Act, 2020, named after Zainab, a seven-year-old girl who had been abducted and murdered after rape in early 2018. The bill presented in the National Assembly eight months ago, has now been forwarded to Senate for final approval. The legislation was mandatory in the wake of increasing cases of child abuse in the country.
Key Features of Zainab Alert Act, 2020
- The child protection act is limited to only federal Islamabad, and it defines anyone under 18 as a ‘child.’
- The law proposes the establishment of a Zainab Alert, Response, and Recovery Agency (ZARRA). The Prime Minister will appoint the head of this agency.
- The agency will maintain the database of missing and abducted children.
- A dedicated helpline, 1099, will be set up, which will forward all reported cases to the Agency.
- ZARRA will issue alerts across the capital whenever a missing case is reported. The ‘alert call’ will include information such as missing child’s physical characteristics, habits, clothes, etc. All the relevant agencies will be engaged and the public at large.
- An information message will be generated in coordination with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The information will be disseminated through all electronic and print media, as well as radio stations.
- The agency will also compile a monthly performance report. This report will be shared publicly on ZARRA’s website.
- The data on missing and abducted children will be made accessible to the public through a mobile application.
- To keep a close watch on ZARRA’s performance from registration of an FIR to the safe recovery of a child, a Child Protection Advisory Board will be established.
- If such a case is reported at any police station, the SHO will be bound to inform ZARRA immediately, within two hours of the registration.
- The bill proposes life imprisonment as the maximum sentence for a perpetrator and the minimum conviction of 10 years.