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Committee on the Rights of the Child reviews the report of Pakistan

Committee on the Rights of the Child

26 May 2016

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the fifth periodic report of Pakistan on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Zarafullah Khan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for Law, introducing the report, said that despite challenges ranging from terrorism and violent extremism to resource constraints, a wide range of legislative, policy and administrative measures had been taken to guarantee the realization of all the rights of all children, including the adoption of the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010 that devolved the matter of child rights, legally and administratively, to the provinces.  Pakistan further established a full-fledged Ministry of Human Rights in November 2015, and Parliament was currently considering the Bill to set up an independent National Commission on the Rights of the Child, which would be mandated to examine the laws relating to children’s rights, recommend future legislation, monitor the situation of children’s rights and coordinate with other stakeholders.  Efforts to implement the National Action Plan 2006 for children had resulted in a 74 per cent rise in participation in early childhood education, and improvement in child and maternal mortality, and in access to clean drinking water.  The right to education was now guaranteed by the Constitution, and the Government was committed to achieving the United Nations target of allocating four per cent of the gross domestic product for education by 2018.

Committee Experts took positive note of the progress made in strengthening the policy and legislative framework in Pakistan, but raised concerns about the lack of harmonization of the laws with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an inconsistent and conflicting definition of the child throughout the legislation and across provinces, and about regression in the protection of the rights of the child caused by the introduction of new laws, in particular the Anti-Terrorism Act, which affected the definition of the child.  The passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment had led to huge differences in the level of protection of children and growing disparities between provinces and territories.  Girls continued to face systematic and institutionalized discrimination and gender-based violence, as did Dalit children, children from minorities, and children with disabilities who were often denied access to health and education.  

Experts expressed their utmost concern about the death penalty which was legal in Pakistan, and the execution of five minors in 2015, and appealed to the Government of Pakistan to pardon children on death row, commute their sentences, and ensure that children tried on charges of terrorism were tried by juvenile courts.  They were alarmed about the impact of sectarian violence and terrorism on children, and by reports of torture and ill-treatment of children in police custody.  Experts welcomed the introduction of free and compulsory education for children aged 5 to 16 and inquired about the resources to fund this commitment, particularly as in some provinces the primary school completion rates were as low as 41 per cent.  The situation of polio, which was endemic, was also discussed, with Experts inquiring about actions to eradicate polio, including from areas controlled by the Taliban where vaccination was banned.

In concluding remarks, Clarence Nelson, Member of the Committee and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Pakistan, recognized the areas of progress and expressed hope that the concluding observations would contribute to the betterment of the situation of children in Pakistan.  He stressed that the Committee was particularly concerned about offenders being executed for crimes committed as juveniles and invited Pakistan to ratify the remaining two Optional Protocols, on children in armed conflict and on individual communications.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Khan said that Pakistan was mindful of its international obligations, its Constitution and its culture to work for the good of the children, and would focus on the issues the Experts raised in the discussion. 

The delegation of Pakistan consisted of the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Law and representatives of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Human Rights, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, and Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will meet in public at 3 p.m. today, 26 May, to consider the second periodic report of Gabon under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/GAB/2) and its initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/OPSC/C/GAB/1).

The country reviews can be watched via live webcast at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org.

Report


The fifth periodic report of Pakistan under the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be read via the following link: CRC/C/PAK/5.

Presentation of the Report


ZARAFULLAH KHAN, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for Law, introducing the report, said that around half of the population of Pakistan comprised of children and youth and that a democratic, progressive and peaceful Pakistan could only be realized by assuring a bright future for the children.  Despite challenges ranging from terrorism and extremism to resource constraints, Pakistan had taken a wide range of legislative, policy and administrative measures to guarantee the realization of all the rights of all children, including the ratification in 2011 of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  In 2010, Pakistan had passed the 18th Constitutional Amendment, which had devolved the matter of child rights, legally and administratively, to the provinces.  Legislative competence in relation to criminal law, procedure and evidence remained with the Federal Parliament and Provincial Assemblies.  The Penal Code had been amended to protect children from abuse in all respects, and federal and provincial assemblies had passed laws such as the Child Marriage Restraint Act and the Right to Education.  A full-fledged Ministry of Human Rights had been established in November 2015, while the Bill for the establishment of an independent National Commission on the Rights of the Child was under consideration by Parliament.  Under the Bill, the Commission would be empowered to examine existing laws relating to children’s rights, recommend future legislation, monitor the situation of children’s rights in the country, and coordinate with provincial governments and civil society organizations.  After devolution, the National Commission for Child Welfare and Development had been placed within the Ministry of Human Rights, and all provinces now had departments for human rights.  In February 2016, the Prime Minister had approved the National Action Plan to Improve Human Rights, which focused on a number of policy interventions to ensure the full enjoyment of children’s rights.  Concerted efforts had been made to implement the National Action Plan 2006 for children, which had resulted in a 74 per cent rise in participation in early childhood education, improvement in child and maternal mortality, and in access to clean drinking water.

Through the 18th Amendment, the right to education was now guaranteed by the Constitution.  The Government was continuing the implementation of the National Action Plan for Education 2009 and was committed to achieving the United Nations target of allocating four per cent of the gross domestic product for education by 2018.  Madrassa reform and registration was underway and to date, 250 unregistered Madrassas had been closed in different parts of the country.  All Madrassa Administrative Boards had agreed to include modern/contemporary subjects in their curriculum in addition to religious education.  Budgetary allocations for health were on the increase.  It was expected that 1.2 million card holder families, including children, would access the Prime Minister’s Health Insurance Programme, while the ongoing People’s Primary Healthcare Initiative and the Family Planning Programme of Pakistan focused on infant, child and maternal health.  Special measures had been undertaken for the promotion of the rights of the girl child, including through the adoption of the Anti-Women Practices Act in 2011.  The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2016 had been enacted to deal with child abuse in a comprehensive manner, through actions against exposure to seduction, child pornography, cruelty to a child, trafficking in human beings and sexual abuse.

Questions by the Country Rapporteurs and Committee Experts


YASEMEEN MUHAMAD SHARIFF, Committee Vice-Chairperson and Rapporteur for the report of Pakistan, took positive note of the progress in strengthening the policy and legislative framework, but noted that many of the national and provincial laws had not been harmonized with the Convention.  The passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment had led to huge differences in the level of protection of children and the enjoyment of their rights in different provinces.  Many federal laws aiming to improve children’s rights had not been retained by provincial governments after devolution, while some bills, such as the anti-terrorism bill, had regressed the protection of children’s rights, for example in the matter of the definition of a child. 

In terms of budgetary resources, Ms. Shariff asked about the total budget for children, a systematic tracking system to track child-focused expenses, and noted that often, allocations did not match the expenditures, and budgets for children were often underutilized.  The definition of the child remained inconsistent and conflicting throughout the legislation and across provinces.  Girls continued to face systematic institutionalized discrimination and gender-based violence, as did Dalit children, children from minorities, children with disabilities and children of the third gender.  Birth registration was extremely important in Pakistan, where many laws and rights were linked to a child’s age; was there an efficient and universal system of birth registration in place, including for non-nationals such as refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons?

SUZANNE AHO ASSOIUMA, Member of the Committee and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Pakistan, took up the right to life and survival, and said that the death penalty was legal in Pakistan, where five minors had been executed in 2015.  Ms. Assoiuma noted that some of the prisoners sentenced to death did not have birth certificates and stressed the need to positively establish the age of prisoners on death row.  She appealed to the Government of Pakistan to pardon children on death row, to commute their sentences, and to ensure that children tried on charges of terrorism were tried by juvenile courts.  What programmes were in place to reduce the high rate of malnutrition among children, particularly in marginalized communities such as Dalit?

Another Expert said that sectarian violence and violent attacks on religious minorities were widespread, and they often involved children.  Children were also tried under blasphemy laws, which carried the death penalty.  Non-Muslim students were not legally required to study Islam; how did they study religion in school?  The Committee was very concerned about reports of torture and ill-treatment of children in police custody and the delegation was asked about such cases, and who was conducting investigations and prosecutions.  There were indications of ill-treatment of children in Madrassas.  The Bill on Torture and Custodial Death had been introduced some four years ago; what was the status of the Bill and when would it be passed into law?

Corporal punishment of children was banned in penal institutions, and despite efforts to prevent it in schools and institutions, there was still no comprehensive ban on corporal punishment in all settings. 

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, recognized the significant resources allocated for the implementation of the National Action Plan on Human Rights and asked about efforts to disseminate the Convention on the Rights of the Child and about the work of the National Committee on Children.  The Chairperson asked the delegation to comment on the impact of devolution on growing disparities between provinces and territories, and, welcoming the establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights, asked for details about its mandate, particularly in receiving and investigating complaints.

Replies by the Delegation


Pakistan was a federation which, based on the demands of the international community and its people, had decided in 2010 to further devolve power from the centre to the provinces, with the exception of legislative power related to the criminal code, evidence and procedure which remained with the central government.  All the laws that had been in force at the time of devolution were part of the statute of the provinces, unless they had been amended by the provinces, which had not been the case too often.  The Government intended to devise a mechanism which would ensure greater harmonization of laws between the provinces.

The Juvenile Justice Law had an over-riding effect over other laws, including the Anti-Terrorism Act.  Pakistan was trying to adopt the phrase from the Convention “best interest of the child”, and use it instead of “welfare of the child” which was embedded in the legislation.  There was a need to define the concept of the best interest of the child, what it meant and translate it into something that could be used by the judiciary and the administration. 

In terms of the participation of children, and their right to be heard in policy formulations, a delegate explained that many efforts went into soliciting the opinion of children, but there was no statutory requirement to do so.  There was a proposal for a new statutory instrument which would ensure a certain representation of children in the highest body, to advise the Government on legislation, policy formulation and coordination.

Although birth registration laws had been in place since the 1930s, this was still one challenging area, and more needed to be done to ensure that each child was registered at birth.  Some of the provinces had amended laws concerning birth and death registration.  Authorities were working with non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies on developing software and adequate technical solutions to facilitate registration, and to raise awareness among parents on the importance of timely birth registration. 

Concerning non-nationals, there were some three million Afghani refugees living in the country, who were supported by the Government and some international organizations, such as the United Nations World Food Programme.  Challenges in this area remained, said the head of the delegation.  Underspending of the budgets allocated for children was mainly due to poor planning, and also to the need to first ensure massive capacity building in provinces, following devolution.  All big international non-governmental organizations were partners of the Government, and there were formal agreements signed with each one of them.  During the war with Al-Qaeda, there had been credible reports about some non-governmental organizations being directly involved in the international campaign against Pakistan.  Following this, the non-governmental organization registration process had been streamlined, simplified and became web-based.

Most laws had the proper definition of the child, but not all, and Pakistan was grappling with this, particularly in the area of marriage where the law had set the age of marriage for boys upon reaching maturity at 18 and girls on reaching puberty at 16 years.  In some provinces, the age of marriage for non-Muslim boys and girls had been brought to 18, but no success had as yet been made for Muslim girls.  All private media outfits were obliged to allocate a percentage of their programming for children, while the Open University had educational programmes for children.

Turning to the questions related to the right to life, the head of delegation explained that, influenced by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a new law had been introduced in 2000 which prohibited that the sentence of death be imposed on children under the age of 18.  Every criminal offender had two rights of appeal, with the provincial court and then with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  Every offender had the right to seek pardon, and the President had an unlimited power to grant pardon and commute the death sentence.  Minors were tried under the Special Court Law, separately from majors.  Their age was not only determined by birth or school certificates, but by an independent medical certificate. 

Two years ago, Pakistan had launched a very strict military action to regain its national territory on the border with Afghanistan, and had suffered a blowback in the form of terrorist attacks on schools and communities.  The Cabinet had approved $ 1.8 billion funding for the Army to eliminate the terrorists.  The problem of sectarianism existed; it had spread into the country after the military interventions in Iraq and Syria had also spread in Pakistan.

Pakistan was very generous in receiving and caring for refugees, sharing its social and economic resources with the 1.25 million registered refugees and more than one million unregistered ones.  Integration into the local community was an option for some, but not a rule, and the Pakistani people wanted to see refugees returning home.  Honour killing was deplored in Pakistan; there was a clear law prohibiting it and it was rejected by the society.  It was interesting to note that the film on honour killing by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness had won the 2016 Oscar for best short subject documentary.

The establishment of the Ministry for Human Rights this year was an indication of Pakistan’s commitment to human rights.  It would work on identifying some areas in which the death penalty could be abolished.  Following the 2014 Peshawar school massacre, the Government had been under huge pressure by the people to lift the moratorium on the death penalty that had been in place.  The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 was equally applicable in all areas of Pakistan, with the exception of Kashmir and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

There were clear policy guidelines on the protection of children in the disaster management system and the national and provincial disaster management authorities had in place strategies and policies on child protection and had received significant resources as well.  The lower House of the Parliament had adopted the bill which banned corporal punishment in all settings, and it would soon be examined by the Senate.  Obstacles and challenges in the implementation of laws and core human rights treaties Pakistan had recently ratified included lack of reliable data, and insufficient capacity of the provincial authorities.

In their follow-up questions, Experts noted with concern that the definition of terrorism in the Pakistani laws was very wide and open to various interpretation and abuse, and asked about the fate of legislation which empowered Anti-Terrorism Courts to try juveniles.

A delegate explained that “karo-kari” and “qisas” were local words for honour killings which were sometimes used in the legislation to clarify the point.  The moratorium on executions had been lifted for crimes of terrorism.  The definition of terrorist crimes in Pakistan was very similar to the definition used in other countries, for example in England.  Information on the number of children tried under the Anti-Terrorism Law was not currently available.  There was a separate law for Juvenile Courts but because of the lack of resources, separate courts had not been established and it was the ordinary judges who used the Juvenile Court procedures.

Questions by the Committee Experts


With regard to the family environment, Committee Experts asked about Pakistan’s intentions and measures to support vulnerable families to help them exercise their parental obligations, and how the psychosocial needs of the children were being assessed.  How were children placed in institutions and what system was in place to monitor the adherence to standards of care provided by those institutions?  Sexual abuse was already at dramatic levels, and was on the increase, with the girl child being particularly vulnerable; the phenomenon was largely under-reported and the delegation was asked about the intention to review the legislation and to put in place an easily accessible mechanism to report abuse.  What measures were in place to put an end to corruption among police officers who were often perpetrators of abuse?

SUZANNE AHO ASSOIUMA, Member of the Committee and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Pakistan, said that children with disabilities were particularly vulnerable as they faced stigmatisation, discrimination and exclusion, and were often denied access to health and education services.  The Expert noted that there were 600 centres for children with disabilities in Pakistan and asked the delegation about the fate of those children after they entered the centres, about the situation of children with disabilities in rural areas, and about the implementation of the policy on inclusive education which Pakistan had adopted.  Polio was endemic in Pakistan and there were still large pockets where children were not immunized; efforts to eradicate polio were obstructed by the Taliban who did not believe in vaccination. 

The Co-Rapporteur raised the issues of high maternal and infant mortality rates, obstetric fistulae which affected 16,000 women and girls every year, very low rates of breastfeeding, with half the babies being bottle fed, and access to abortion and reproductive health, particularly for girls and young women.  The delegation was asked about measures to support the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of children using drugs; what was being done with girls forced into early marriages and who could not divorce or dissolve the marriage; and the budget allocated to combatting HIV/AIDS, the number of children affected by this disease, and programmes to prevent the transmission from mother to child.

Another Expert asked about the centre that had been set up to support the rehabilitation of former child soldiers and other measures to support the reintegration of children who had been involved in armed conflict.  What was being done to prevent the recruitment of children by extremist groups?  Was it true that there was no law in Pakistan which prohibited internal trafficking in persons?  Had the ordinary judges who administered Juvenile Courts been trained in juvenile justice and other matters; what were the intentions in terms of setting up of the Juvenile Court?  In several of the provinces, there were no separate detention and prison facilities for juveniles; what was being done to remedy the situation and to protect juveniles from abuse by other detainees or the staff?

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, recognized the efforts of Pakistan in hosting refugees – Pakistan was the number one protracted refugee crisis in the world – and asked about the situation of refugee children and the enjoyment of their right to nationality.

Replies by the Delegation


Pakistan, like its Western partners, was very aware of the threat of terrorism.  All political parties represented in Parliament had agreed on a national action plan to put in place a progressive and open version of Islam in order to counter extremist and radical discourse.  Media outfits were requested to allocate space in their programming to diffuse messages of tolerance.  This process had successfully led to the opening of a dialogue with directors of Madrassa and religious leaders, with whom a de-radicalization programme had been agreed.  The Government strongly felt that what was at stake was the peace and future of Pakistan.

There were two types of anti-trafficking regimes in Pakistan, the Penal Code, which addressed the crimes of trafficking and abduction, and the Human Trafficking Act which had been passed several years ago; those two regimes ensured that both international and internal trafficking in persons was covered by the law.   

Judicial training occurred at the provincial levels and was not controlled by the Government.  Since 2007, the judiciary had been very active and assertive.  In addition, there were a number of non-governmental organizations which specialized in the training of judges, police officers and prosecutors.  Police academies existed in Islamabad and in each province.  Gone were the days in Pakistan when human rights were terra incognita, and judges, police, civil servants and prosecutors now regularly received training in human rights.

There were three levels at which the age of the accused juvenile could be discussed: at the trial level, and the high court appeal level, while the Supreme Court, although it did not take in evidence, sometimes could remand the provincial (high) court to review and take in new evidence, including on age.  Asked about the Supreme Court taking in evidence after the trial, the delegation explained that legislation to this effect did not exist in Pakistan, but that remand could be used to send the case back to the trial court to re-examine the case and ensure that there was no miscarriage of justice.  Under another instrument, it was possible to reopen trials if lawyers could prove that what was at stake was a question of public importance, or a question of fundamental rights.  That said, it was also important to note that it was very hard to reopen a criminal case.

Responding to a follow-up question about the relationship with the non-governmental organizations, a delegate stressed that some 70 per cent of the donor funding to Pakistan was coming in through non-governmental organizations, and their projects were not scrutinized by the Government.  All non-governmental organizations, international and national alike, had to register through a system that was not too complicated, and had to regularly report to the Government.  All international non-governmental organizations operating in Pakistan agreed to undergo the registration procedure, while local non-governmental organizations, which largely had transparency problems, in general refused to comply with the legislation. 

In 2014, Pakistan had registered 300 cases of polio, and only 11 cases in 2015, all of which came from the three very concentrated reservoir areas.  Pakistan intended to achieve zero case target in 2016/17 and for this, had adopted an emergency action plan on the eradication of the polio, composed of high-level officials who kept a close eye on the efforts.  The focus of the plan was on using the injectable polio vaccine, reaching children in hard-to-reach-areas, and educating the population; the drive was fully funded by the Government.  Pakistan had expanded the programme of immunization and had vaccinated children against nine diseases, in all provinces, at the estimated cost was nine billion rupees.  During every polio campaign, drops were administered to 30 million children, and this happened seven or eight times per year.  The human resources necessary for the task were enormous, not only the medical personnel, but also the staff ensuring the security of the vaccination teams.

Pakistan had one of the largest community-based health programmes, which employed 100,000 Lady Health Workers who covered some 70 per cent of the communities, most of them poor and disadvantaged, and provided crucial support in maternity and child health, reproductive health, and malnutrition.  Major killers of children were pneumonia and diarrhoea, which contributed to up to 70 per cent of mortality in children under the age of five.  Those issues were addressed specifically through nutrition programmes, health teams and also through Lady Health Workers, who had been trained in community-based management of pneumonia; this had been very successful. 

The maternal mortality rate had almost halved over the past two decades, due to dedicated mother and child health interventions and the Lady Health Workers.  More than half deliveries now happened in medical institutions, and the community midwives programme had been launched 10 years ago, under which 20,000 midwives provided skilled birth attendance to women in communities.  Contraceptives were being provided to couples, while adolescent health was being piloted in some provinces. 

The Prime Minister’s Health Insurance Programme had been launched in 2015, which aimed to cover 70 million people living under the poverty line, and it would include children with disabilities and other vulnerable children.  The list of medical devices to be covered by the insurance had been agreed.

There were robust programmes in place that targeted populations at risk of HIV/AIDS, for which 20 million US dollars had been allocated by the Global Fund and 20 million by the Government.  There were an estimated 100,000 people living with HIV in Pakistan, with prevalence being highest among injectable drug users in urban areas.  Mother to child transmission of HIV was very negligible, mainly due to the availability of anti-retroviral drugs.  Second-generation anti-retroviral drugs were also available to eligible individuals.

Answering Experts’ follow-up questions on various health issues, a delegate said that several years ago the Taliban had banned vaccination in some Federally Administered Tribal Areas, resulting in 300,000 children missing their vaccination in 2013; that number had
dropped to 5,000 children this year.  Certain communities among the more than 140 districts in Pakistan, usually those very remote and inaccessible, had low vaccination rates; they were now being targeted with additional initiatives, including cash incentives for parents, to have the children vaccinated.  The Government was very serious about improving coverage, and had an agreement with GAVI which funded some of the vaccine procurement.  The cost of vaccination had increased because new agents had been included, such as the pneumococcal vaccine, which was very costly, and  the injectable polio vaccine, also very costly.  In terms of the gender gap in vaccinations, the delegate explained that there was usually no gap between genders for first doses, given at birth, but the gap widened with the passage of time.  Gender gap was one of the indicators used in decision-making on the allocation of resources for vaccinations to provinces, which had to reach their gender targets and indicators in order to qualify for disbursement.  Polio in Pakistan made up one epidemiological block with Afghanistan and action must be taken on both sides of the border in order to ensure its eradication.

The Breastfeeding Protection Ordinance had been adopted, which had established Breastfeeding Protection Boards and the Federal and provincial levels that determined mechanisms through which breastfeeding should be protected.  A number of steps had been taken to promote breastfeeding through a ban on advertising milk substitutes in the media – print and electronic – and in hospitals; interaction between formula companies and prescribers of milk substitute was also banned, while the benefits of breastfeeding was part of the training of paediatricians, midwives and other health workers.  Mothers were supposed to make four antenatal visits, and the records showed that 59 per cent of pregnant women did that. 

Committee Experts asked about children dying from malnutrition in Tharparkar district, and the delegation said that this situation was of the highest importance to all stakeholders in Pakistan and that as a result of concerted efforts, mortality had gone down.

Questions by the Committee Experts


In Pakistan, education for all children aged 5 to 16 was free and compulsory.  Experts asked whether the resources allocated to education were sufficient to fulfil this obligation, what was being done to support education in some provinces where only 41 per cent of children completed primary school, and intentions to revise the syllabus.  The delegation was also asked about measures to mitigate the disastrous impact of terrorist attacks and threats on schooling and how Pakistan ensured that all children could enjoy quality education in safe and secure environments.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, noted that there were millions of children working in the country, some as young as 10, and asked about measures to protect the children in this regard, including in informal sectors.  The Constitution prohibited labour of children under the age of 18.

Replies by the Delegation


There were very stringent measures in place to eliminate child labour, which in itself was not criminalized, but hiring a child was a criminal offence, and the burden of proof that an employee was not a child was on the employer.  Recently, more than 400 employers in Punjab alone were subjected to charges for using children for labour.  Conditions in jails were being constantly monitored by the Federal Government, provincial judges also had an obligation to visit and inspect jails monthly, and there were civil society organizations which monitored the situation in prisons. 

Education was free and compulsory for all children aged 5 to 16, and providing free and quality education to all was a big commitment and responsibility for the Government.  Following the adoption of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, education was devolved to provinces, but the Federal Government remained involved in monitoring the situation in the sector and in providing support to provinces to fulfil their obligations.  Federal budgetary allocation for education had been increased by 50 per cent over the past three years; provinces were also steadily increasing their education budgets, for example Punjab had raised its allocation from 220 billion rupee in 2013 to over 300 billion this year.  Textbooks from grade 1 to grade 10 were free of charge throughout the country, while free school transport was being provided in some areas on a pilot basis. 

School enrolment drives to bring out of school children back to school had been launched in the country three years ago; the report of the impact of this measure was being compiled.  Also, over the last three years, Pakistan had recruited 165,000 new teachers, through a competitive and merit-based process; they were then provided with additional training.  Girl education used to be a problem, and a number of initiatives had been launched over the past three years in order to increase the enrolment of girls.  Pakistan had donated $ 10 million to the Malala Fund, of which it had received a $ 7 million grant to promote the enrolment of girls in 16 districts.

Devolving the education to provinces following the adoption of the 18th Amendment had raised a very specific challenge – that of a detailed and scientific coordination mechanism; therefore, an Inter-Provincial Education Minister Conference had been established which met three times a year and where all education staff from provinces could share experience and coordinate.  At the moment, 24 million children in Pakistan were out of school; the Government had introduced community-based schools to draw those children to school, and offered incentives for girls to attend. 

Provinces could develop their own curriculum, but the Inter-Provincial Education Minister Conference had agreed to sharing one national curriculum.  Two years ago, the National Curriculum Council had been established, which had three key tasks.  First, it was mandated with ensuring the quality of education in Pakistan, and had recently adopted the Minimum Quality Education Standards to ensure symmetry and harmony between curricula in Pakistan.  The Council was also tasked with developing the national curriculum framework, which was now ready, and would define how different subjects would be approached.  Thirdly, the Council had the mandate to revise the national curriculum, which had been redesigned in 2006.  Pakistan was in the process of reviewing its National Education Policy, which would address early childhood education and development of children under the age of five.  There were private schools in Pakistan, attended by 38 per cent of school children aged five and above.  Public sector schools at the moment had the Pre-One class, or the so-called “ Catchy class”, which was available in almost 40 per cent of the public schools in the country, and for which curriculum and class activities had been developed.  This class served the purpose of pre-school education for now.

In 2005/06 the first inclusive education class had been rolled out on a pilot basis in Islamabad, under which 847 students with minor disabilities had been enrolled.  More than 400 teachers had been trained in supporting students with minor disabilities.  In 2009, inclusive education became an essential part of the National Education Policy in Pakistan, and would also be part of the new education policy, expected by the end of the year.

There were no situations of armed conflict per se in the country, but the Government was dealing with the threat of terrorism which had taken 60,000 lives over the past several years.  The current military operations were part of the law and order actions and were supported by the counter-terrorism strategy and the relevant laws.

Concluding Remarks


CLARENCE NELSON, Committee Member and Co-Rapporteur for the report of Pakistan, recognized the specific challenges of Pakistan, a country with 60 million children, in a very volatile part of the world.  The delegation had acknowledged the areas of progress and the Committee hoped that its concluding observations would contribute to the betterment of the situation of children.  The Committee was particularly concerned about offenders being executed for crimes committed as juveniles and invited Pakistan to ratify the remaining two Optional Protocols, on children in armed conflict and on individual communications.

ZARAFULLAH KHAN, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Law, said that Pakistan was mindful of its international obligations, its Constitution and its culture to work for the good of children, and it would focus on the issues the Experts raised in the discussion.  The Convention was an ideal to be achieved, and although ideals were never attained, Pakistan would continue to work harder under the guidance of the Committee.

TEHMINA JANJUA, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee Experts for their hard work and said that all their comments would be taken back to Islamabad, and hoped to continue to work with the Committee to fulfil the commitments to human rights and the rights of the child.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their assurances that the concluding observations would be carefully examined.


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