PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the district social welfare officer of Peshawar to appear before it to highlight the steps taken for the protection of the vulnerable children and the establishment of a child welfare home.

A bench consisting of Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Abdul Shakoor issued the directions during the hearing into a petition of lawyer Saifullah Muhib Kakakhel against the involvement of poor children in begging and labour and their sexual exploitation.

The petitioner requested the court to order the handing over of such minors to the child protection and welfare institutions.

He also sought the court’s orders for different officials of the provincial government, including the chief secretary and police chief, to arrest vagrants and drug addicts for trial in the relevant court and hand over the children at risk to the institutions established for their protection.

PHC seeks update on establishment of child welfare home

The petitioner requested the court to direct the Child Protection and Welfare Commission through its chief protection officer to create a complaint cell, form a committee to rescue the child at risk, and initiate a public awareness programme.

The respondents in the petition are the provincial government through chief secretary, provincial police chief, Child Protection and Welfare Commission, the department of women’s empowerment and social welfare, and law department.

The petitioner informed the court about the violation of child rights in the province, especially the growing incidence of violence against children.

He said recently, an eight-year-old child was killed in Nowshera reportedly after being sexually abused. The petitioner wondered if the children at home were not safe, then how the child beggars and workers could be protected from abuse.

He said the court had directed the provincial government to renovate child welfare houses and orphanages but the latter didn’t act accordingly.

The bench asked an official of the social welfare department about welfare homes.

The official said the department didn’t have enough funds for the purpose, while the rescued children had been adjusted in Zamung Kor, a child protection institution in Peshawar.

He said district social welfare officer Jaffar Shah had more knowledge about the matter than him, so he could help the court.

The bench asked Jaffar Shah to appear before it on next hearing for an update on the welfare home and orphanage.

The petitioner, who is known for filing petition on matters of public interest, said the West Pakistan Vagrancy Ordinance, 1958, and Orphanage (Supervision and Control) Act, 1966, dealt with the issues of vagrants and child at risk but those laws were repealed by the provincial assembly by passing the KP Child Protection and Welfare Bill, 2010, which promised the establishment of the child protection institutions by the provincial government.

He said until now, the government had taken no concrete step for the enforcement of that law.

The petitioner claimed that minor children were employed by professional beggars to seek alms on busy roads and streets in the provincial capital and other districts.

He added that minor children were forcibly employed in bus stands, where drivers and cleaners sexually abused them.

Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2020