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SPECIAL REPORT: All You Need to Know About the Zainab Alert Bill

The National Assembly approved the Zainab Alert, Recovery and Response Bill, 2019, on Friday.

The bill was presented by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari in June last year and was aimed at making provisions for raising alert, response and recovery of missing and abducted children.

The bill was named after Zainab, a six-year-old girl, whose brutal rape and murder in January 2018,  had sparked outrage and protests across the country.

11 other girls were kidnapped, abused and killed in the very same way in Punjab’s Kasur city before Zainab with police failing to nab the criminals behind the incidents until the culprit in Zainab’s case was caught and executed.

Here is what you should know about the bill

Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Bill will raise the required alerts and initiate the responses required for recovery of missing, abducted, abused or kidnapped children in Islamabad Capital Tenitory (ICT).

The bill after providing basic definitions, recommends establishment of Establishment of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA).

The ZARRA shall work closely with the helpline 1099 or such other helpline operating under the mandate ofthe Division concerned. In this regard, the helpline shall forward complaints relevant to the mandate of ZARRA, which shall be acted upon in partners between the ZARRA and the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC).

Powers and functions of ZAARA

1. To activate Zainab alerts, when there is a missing or abducted child, at the Federal
Capital level, which shall include information on thc physical characteristics of the missing or abducted child as well as any other data that would help in the child’s identification, so as to inform the public at large and all concemed agencies to whom these alerts shall be issued.

2. To coordinate with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for issuance of Zainab alert SMS, MMS, with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Auihority (PEMRA) for tickers on television channels and announcements on radio stations and alerts on social media as well as postings on relevant websites or online, print media or any other available medium to report abductions.

3. To define procedures for how, when, with what frequency and in which geographical territory the missing or abducted child alert shall be raised.

4. To provide nation-wide telephonic toll- free hotline number 1099 or such other number where any person may report a missing or abducted child and number may be used by any member of public who has any information relating to the missing or abducted child.

5. To maintain online data base both in ZARRA and Division concerned and of every reported incident of a missing or abducted child, the actions taken, the current status of the case and its final outcome. This database shall be monitored for accuracy and shall be kept updated at all times. ‘fhe database shall cover all territories of ICT and shall be accessible to public on ZARRA website in English
and in Urdu.

6. To maintain proper record for each case, coordinate any information on missing children with local law
enforcement agencies, detect criminal patterns in a geographical area, issue, monthly public reports on missing and abducted children on its website, introduce procedures and key performance indicators that will improve and measure the effectiveness of ZARRA.

7. To facilitate the provision of legal aid or advice, where circumstances so requires  coordinate and cooperate, in case of missing or abducted child who has been wrongfully removed to, or retained in Pakistan, with the concerned authorities of the country where the child was habitually residing; and to do any other task necessary to perform the functions of ZARRA.

Punishments under this Act

Kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of eighteen years

1. The act says that whoever kidnaps or abducts any person under the age of eighteen years in order that such person may be murdered or subjected to grievous hurt, or slavery, rape, or that such person may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered or subjected to grievous hurt, or slavery or rape shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to fourteen years but shall not be less than ten years.

2.  Whoever kidnaps or abducts any child under the age of eighteen years with the intention of taking dishonestly any movable property from the possession of such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to fourteen years, and with a fine of one million rupees.

Procedure for the information which relates to the commission of abduction or missing child

In respect of the information which relates to the commission of offence of abduction or missing child, an officer in charge of a police station shall compulsory reduce it to writing by him or under his direction and be read over to the informant and everv such information, whether given in writing or reduced to
writing as aforesaid, shall be signed by the person giving it and the substance there shall be entered in a book to be kept by such officer and also ensure that the required information, is made part of the complaint.

 Completion of trial

The trial under this Act shall be completed within three months.

Here is the full text of the bill

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