Recently it has been revealed that the Chairperson and the members of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) have not received their due salaries. According to documents available with The Friday Times–NayaDaur, numerous letters have been written to the Ministry of Human Rights, the government machinery and the cabinet regarding the nonpayment of salaries, but still, no practical steps have been taken to resolve the issue.
Miss Afshan Tehseen, the chairperson of NCRC, while confirming the matter, says that she and the NCRC members have not been paid since February 2020, which is exactly the time the commission was formed. While commenting about the performance of NCRC, Miss Tehseen says that she and other NCRC members are putting in their sincere efforts to protect child rights but the unavailability of a sufficient budget is affecting their policies.
Another member from the NCRC, on condition of anonymity, noted that since the commission has been formed, “no proper legislation has been done, which is the main obstacle in obtaining any funds for the commission and the nonpayment of their salaries. The year 2021 showed a budget deficit of Rs 7.3 million and still, the cabinet is not paying any attention to address the issue.” He adds that the commission members are living in poverty and are forced to sell their property and other valuables to meet their expenses as their salaries have not been paid.
On 13 January 2022, the Child Rights Movement (CRM), an alliance of over 400 child rights NGOs and child rights activists in Pakistan, has issued a letter to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, requesting that Rules of Business for be developed and approved for the NCRC on a priority basis. The letter insists that the prolonged delay in the passage of NCRC rules and a lack of adequate budget for the commission concerns all child rights activists. Moreover, the CRM letter explains that delaying funds for NCRC is not only a huge threat to child rights but also jeopardised the survival of the commission – the maintenance of which is an obligation under various international agreements (like UNCRC and GPS Plus) to which Pakistan is a party.
What is NCRC?
The National Commission on the Rights of the Child was constituted on the basis of a notice issued by the Federal Government on 28 February 2020, under the Rights of the Child Act 2017. The NCRC commission body consists of a chairperson, a member from each province (Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and KP), and from the federal capital territory (ICT), two child-members, and other ex-officio members. The stated members took charge of their duties on 26 March 2020.
The vision behind the formation of NCRC was to create a facultative, responsive, and protective society for children to enjoy their rights with dignity. The commission has a solid goal to ensure the rights of children, fight child labour, child marriages, counter the countrywide increase of sexual abuse of children and protect them from violence, abuse, and exploitation. The commission has a vaulting mandate contenting the international obligations and for matters related to the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of child rights as delineated in the NCRC Act 2017.
NCRC is authorised to raise awareness about child rights among policymakers, members of civil society, academia, media and children. It is responsible to involve lawmakers and other stakeholders in reviewing and promoting existing legislation, identity gaps, and renew the commitment t protect child rights. The commission inquires about the complaint of violation of child rights and recommends the relevant agency r department to initiate the case. NCRC works in engagements with an international human rights system for promoting and protecting child rights in Pakistan.
Why is it important to have a Child Rights commission?
Children make about 48 percent of the total population of Pakistan. Despite this, little is done to guarantee their rights. Our children are deprived of their most basic human rights ensured in the constitution of Pakistan – such as the right to survival, education, health, and protection. In the presence of these laws, children could be seen begging on the streets, performing labour in households and commercial businesses, etc. Sexual abuse is on the rise, and child marriages still remain haunting issues that government entities have failed to overcome. A large number of children, especially girls, are out of school – which denies them their right to education.
Keeping in mind the deplorable status of child rights in Pakistan, it was essential to have a separate commission to work for the welfare of children, as the Ministry of Human Rights in Pakistan was not sufficient to meet these increasing challenges. Moreover, Pakistan is a member of several international organisations including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which binds the country to uphold its obligations and to make ensure the free access of all citizens below the age of 18 to their basic rights regardless of their race, national origin, colour, gender, religion, language, opinion, wealth, birth status, or other characteristics.
The formation of the NCRC was necessary not only to assist the government in protecting the rights of the child but to enhance the country’s image on the international level.
Yet, an important institution established under a federal order is waiting for its legislation for nearly two years. The unavailability of funds is proving a major hurdle in hiring office staff and executing policies for child safety. Given these circumstances, it seems difficult for the commission to sustain its existence for much longer. The Prime Minister of Pakistan should immediately take notice of the matter and instruct the relevant authorities to take practical steps to remedy this situation.