The National Assembly on Wednesday passed the Zainab Alert, Recovery, and Response Bill, 2020, aimed at sounding the alarm, as well as taking timely action, for the recovery of missing and abducted children.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari moved a motion for the bill to be considered as passed by the Senate with amendments.
Mazari, in a tweet to announce the development, said that the bill “will now go to the president for signing into law”.
After President Arif Alvi signs off on it, the bill will become an “Act of Parliament”.
The bill has been named after Zainab, a six-year-old girl, who in 2018 was kidnapped from her home in Kasur, then raped and killed.
Under the bill, investigations pertaining to all cases of kidnapping, rape, and murder of minor children will need to be completed within three months.
The bill is set to ensure harmonisation and cohesion in the workings of the new agencies and institutions established for the protection of children and already existing mechanisms within the field.
According to bill, the maximum sentence handed down to child sexual abusers would be life imprisonment, with a Rs1-million fine while the minimum sentence would be 10 years.
The bill has recommended the establishment of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), headed by a director-general who would be appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
It has also suggested that ZARRA work closely with the 1099 helpline or such other helplines operating under the mandate of the Division concerned.
In this regard, the helpline shall forward relevant complaints, which shall be acted upon in partnership between ZARAA and the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) established under the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017.
Furthermore, the bill has proposed taking action against police officials who cause unnecessary delay in investigating such cases, and that those who fail to respond to the alert within two hours may also face action.
ZARRA shall, wherever required, coordinate the efforts of the concerned police stations and other federal and provincial agencies, authorities or departments.
Mazari thanked all the political parties for supporting the bill.
“I am also thankful to the Human Rights Committees of Senate and National Assembly for their support,” she added.