They said they would take care of our children in their manifestos, did they lie?

Published: March 16, 2014
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It is high time that all political parties fulfil their commitments to children’s rights, particularly their right to health, education and protection. PHOTO: AFP

The majority of us, particularly those in the power corridors, may not remember that 2013 was declared the ‘Year of Child Rights’ in Pakistan on November 20, 2012 by the then prime minister of Pakistan while speaking at a function to commemorate Universal Children’s Day.

Unfortunately, however, his government couldn’t take any tangible steps in the first two and half months of the year. 2013 was also the year of elections in Pakistan and we heard political parties share their programmes and manifestos with the masses and make commitments related to improving health, education, social protection and other social indicators.

This blog is an attempt to review the manifestos of Pakistan’s major political parties, specifically with reference to children’s right to health and protection, and to see if they have taken any steps to implement these after their election wins and forming governments at the federal and/or provincial levels.

Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP)

PPPP, in its manifesto, declared public health to be a high priority and committed that,

 “It will further consolidate the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) Programme”.

However, the LHWs are still running from pillar to post for the implementation of their regularisation. Similarly, their number has been capped till 2015 by the federal government. In Sindh, where the PPPP is in power, only 60% of the population is covered by LHWs and there are only 22,576 LHWs in the province which are not enough to cover the entire population.

The Sindh government should allocate budgetary allocation for the LHW programme at the provincial level and appoint more LHWs in line with its manifesto and the vision of their leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. This will be a significant step towards reducing infant, under-five and maternal mortality in the province and will address the malnutrition and population explosion related issues as well.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)

PTI highlighted “the present dismal state of women and children in terms of their access to healthcare, nutrition, and education”.

PTI is in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and is in a position to take necessary steps for the promotion and protection of children’s rights. The PTI government, in line with its manifesto, should increase the budgetary allocation for health and approve the K-P inter sectoral nutrition strategy.

To effectively respond to child health issues, the provincial government should also enact and implement the K-P Compulsory Immunisation Bill and the K-P Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding Bill. The K-P government should also enact the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Bill to implement the Article 25-A of the Constitution about right to education for children five to 16 years of age. This will also have a positive effect on child protection, particularly reduction in child labour in the province. And the K-P government should make budgetary allocation for the implementation of the K-P Child Protection and Welfare Act 2010.

Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N)

PML-N committed to increase the overall expenditure on health to 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), achieve 100% vaccination of children and 50% reduction in maternal and infant mortality by 2018. However, practical steps are still to be taken at the federal, Punjab and Balochistan levels where the PML-N is in power to implement its manifesto.

Health budget in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is still low and needs to be increased to be able to strengthen the health system in these areas. Last year’s measles outbreak in Punjab and Balochistan exposed the weak routine immunisation system in both provinces and highlighted the need for strengthening the system which will also ultimately lead to the sustainable eradication of the polio menace.

The recent cases of child sexual abuse and torture to death of child domestic workers across the country and particularly in Punjab, also highlights the importance of having a strong child protection system in the country. Both Balochistan and Punjab require legislation on child protection and need to implement a child protection system, similar to the one been in K-P implemented by the previous Awami National Party (ANP) government.

Although still weak and in its initial stages, both K-P and Sindh have child protection systems in place in the shape of the provincial child protection legislation and bodies. On the other hand, the Balochistan Child Protection and Welfare Bill has been pending since 2011 while in Punjab no such initiative has been taken as yet.

Similarly, there is no child protection system in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and a number of bills related to children’s rights are pending at the National Assembly level. The federal government needs to play its role to ensure enactment of the National Commission on the Rights of Children Bill, the Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, the Child Marriages Restraint Amendment Bill and the Criminal Laws Amendment (Child Protection) Bill.

Furthermore, legislation should be enacted to implement a child protection system for the ICT while steps should be taken for the implementation of existing laws, that is, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and the Employment of Children Act 1991.

The recent global focus to accelerate progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly during the UN General Assembly, also calls for more focus on areas related to mother and child health, nutrition, education and so forth, in all provinces. According to the findings of the National Nutrition Survey 2011released in September 2013, malnutrition has become a key concern for the country. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 352,000 children die each year in Pakistan and an estimated 35% of these deaths are attributed to malnutrition.

However, one sees no urgency or commitment at the federal and provincial levels to respond to this situation by implementing strategies and increasing budgetary allocations. This is also evident from the fact that malnutrition indicators have not improved for almost four decades.

It is high time that all political parties who are in power fulfil their commitments to children’s rights, particularly their right to health, education and protection. In the post 18th Constitutional Amendment scenario, these areas fall under the domain of provinces.

The focus should be on areas which can bring concrete changes in key indicators. These include child and maternal mortality, vaccination ratio, nutrition indicators, health workers’ coverage, protection of children from abuse, exploitation and violence against children and above all policy, legislation and budgetary allocation for children.

Arshad Mahmood

Arshad Mahmood

He has a Masters degree in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and is currently working for the promotion and protection of child rights in Pakistan. He tweets @amahmood72 (twitter.com/amahmood72).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khushal wala

    Mr. Mahmood do you seriously what the politicians say?
    Seriously, even the village idiot knows it is only vacuous rhetoric.
    Pandering to the voters. Will say anything people want to hear.
    Then you don’t exist until next election.
    However, thanks for reminding the voters what promises/lies were
    made.Recommend

  • Adnan Sajid

    Excellent piece of blog. Its time for the political parties to respond and act on the commitments as highlighted by the blogger in his above blog. Being a new political power and who come into power on slogan of change i.e. PTI, expectations are them are higher. I am sure that this blog has provided a road map to all the political parties what a common man/woman are expecting from them in terms of the job they have been elected for.Recommend

  • Adnan Sajid

    An excellent piece of blog. The blogger has provided a road map to the legislators to fulfill their commitments and promises they have made with their voters.Recommend

  • Habiba

    The capital teritory dipicts the true picture of state of children in the whole country. Soaring number of street children, begging, picking rapers, sniffing glue bond are far more threatening for country then any other issue.
    The decision makers probably never pass by the common streets or either turn a blind eye to the bitter reality existing in their surroundings.
    Its been more than half a century and not a single sustained solution has been adopted by the policy makers to address the issue of child protection and child rights, besides just printing them in their political menifestoes .
    There is a dire need of a sustainable CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEM at least in the capital of the country, and this step should be definately taken by the government with proper allocation of funds, infrastructure and human resourse.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    I have been reading such articles, statements and news in media since news about Thari people broke out but haven’t read a single line about parents responsibilities towards their children. There is no doubt politicians and government officials are corrupt, lazy and insensitive but still its parents responsibility to look after their kids. Simple solution lies in birth control. In my view not helping poor people is a lesser crime than having eight to ten kids in famine situation. Recommend

  • Irshad Danish

    The author has rightly drawn attention toward a bitter reality. Prior to election, in last year, almost all of leading political parties pledged some steps to improve conditions of children in Pakistan. Now, once some of those political parties are in power, they have overlooked their commitments. Even elapse of almost 10 months, people in Pakistan is still waiting for political manifestos to become a reality.

    Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) which is ruling party in Sindh province had promised to consolidate the Lady Health Workers (LHWs) Programme. However, LHWs in Sindh are still struggling for their regularization. They never received their stipend in time and neither recognized for their hard work.

    The manifesto of Pakistan Muslim League (N) says that ‘The basic aim of the health programme will be to achieve, within 5 years, 100% vaccination of children, 50% reduction in maternal and infant mortality and at least 10% reduction in the rate of population growth’. Recently launched, Pakistan demographic health survey 2012-13 project bleak future for Pakistani children, however government of Pakistan has not taken the report seriously and no concrete step has been taken to strengthen routine immunization and improve antenatal and postpartum care that are crucial to meet MDG 4 and MDG 5.Recommend

  • Multani

    What a revelation ! Had no idea. These people don’t
    practice birth control ! How dare they ! Hhmmm,..well,..see
    more than 93 % are illiterate. That is how the feudal lords and
    waderas want them.’ Illiterate.’ When you are illiterate, you have no
    idea what birth control is. Plus, you need information. And things
    like birth control devices and supplies. And,.. how to use them.Recommend

  • Nabeela Waheed

    Public Health is one of the fundamental human rights supposed to be protected by the state. Lady Health Worker Programme is an important part to help in providing such important services to the poor and needy people of our country.
    Pakistan’s health, nutrition and education sectors suffer from successive government’s lack of vision and political will to make universal coverage a reality. It is quite unfortunate that the leading political parties often have minimal vision or strategy to solve the issues.Recommend

  • Bilquees Bano

    Great job sir, thanks for highlighting this serious issue and reminding the manifesto to our so called democratic government.Recommend

  • Miqdad Naqvi

    No doubt, this blog deserves the appreciations for highlighting the forgotten promises, it was nothign more than a joke with the children of Pakistan, when ex-prime minister delcared Election Year as Child Rights Year.
    It was expected that provincial autonomy through 18th amenedemtn will contribute for the compliance of United Nation’s Conventiono n the rights of Children but overall situation is not even satisfactory. Especially in Punjab PML(N) dont think it as an issue, spends billions trillion rupees on different youth projects as they have VOTE power, but nothing to set the Child Protection System, to devise Child Protection Policy and legislative steps for the promotion of child rights.
    syedmiqdad.blogspot.comRecommend

  • Irfan Shah

    Very informative and comprehensive piece for study regarding the child rights, state and commitments. Federal and provincial governments need to fulfill their commitments to give their children “A healthy feature-A prosperous Pakistan”

    If I talk about the health component of child rights, your article reminds me about a lesson I studied during my school days “The most beautiful city” . where two kings had a focus on infrastructures only while the children and adults were weak and sick. Priority of the third king was children and people, the third king was of the view “if the people are healthy, they can build many beautiful cities, but what if I have the beautiful cities but not the people to live in”.Recommend

  • Abdullah Khoso

    All political parties make promises
    in their speeches and manifestos to make heavens for people but when they come
    into powers they forget about their promises and manifestos. Arshad Mahmood has
    rightly and timely highlighted about those promises and manifestos which yet
    have not been fulfilled completely. Pakistan is deep into all kinds of crisis
    mainly human rights crisis, therefore, this is time the best time and
    opportunity for federal and provincial governments to show maturity and
    firmness, and fulfill all the made promises for enabling an environment in
    which everyone should have rights and children too have rights to grow and
    develop.

    Islamabad should be an ideal and model city but it is crowded with children begging on streets and working in hazardous conditions. However, no government has every thought about it, therefore there is no child protection system in Islamabad to protect children from abuse, violence and exploitation, this is also mentioned by Mahmood in his blog.Recommend

  • Hussain Ahmad

    Balochistan seems to be the most neglected province without laws and institutions for children. The CJ Pakistan should take notice of it.Recommend

  • Asim Qureshi

    the blog facilitates us and the policy holders to protect the children from malnutrition, it is the need of the time to recall the committments from the political parties which they have before elections, we urge that the ruling parties should response to their committments and enhance the budget, enact the pending bills and take step towards acheiving the MDGs and contribute in reduction of child and materanl mortality for a happy PakistanRecommend

  • Bashir Ahmed

    Great job by the author and a guideline for those who are advocating for child rights. This writing is not only a reminder for our political parties and governing bodies but also a reminder for those who are working for the rights of children in any way. If they are not fulfilling their responsibilities then we have to become a responsible citizen and raise our voices for the rights of children. In this way we can contribute for the better future of children as Mr. Arshid did.Recommend

  • imran takkar

    Indeed its a dismal situation of children in the country, the political parties should respond accordingly as made commitments in the last election for children rights promotion and protection as highlighted in the said blog. This writing is a road map for all the political parties sitting in the parliament either in power or in opposition, same at a time a reminder for those who are working for the rights of children in any way.Recommend

  • gulmina

    Feudal Lords or clerics? It’s the clerics who have 14 children…Recommend

  • Dr.Naveed

    Excellent Blog by Arshad Mahmood.I would recommend the politicians must read this blog and remember what they have committed (before coming into power) with their miserable voters. Now this is time that some responsible / parliamentarians should act on this and review their manifestos once again in their part meetings to refresh their commitments and devise way forward to carry out their pledges.Recommend

  • Meherzaidi

    http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/624/protecting-our-children/ The KPK government should now work on facilitating and enforcing these laws to protect the children.Recommend

  • naima chohan

    Thank you Arshad for another eye opening article. Well my question is who can held them accountable??? so next time when they think of putting something on their manifestoes they should know that they have to answer. Most of the politicians/MNAs/MPs/MPAs come selected from the areas where people who cast the vote for them don’t even know why they are casting vote, they just follow the orders of their “Vadera”, “Sain”, “Choaudhry” or “Peer” etc. And i really doubt if all the aprt representatives have ever read their manifestoes themselves. in this situation, i have hopes from the group who at least understands why is it important for children to have their rights fulfilled and how they can held duty bearers / state / decision makers accountable.Recommend

  • Arshad Mahmood

    Very important to focus on implementation and thanks for sharing your article.Recommend

  • Arshad Mahmood

    You are right that birth control is an important aspect however, you can not respond to the issue by this formula of no children and or few children and no issues. Even if there is population control, you’ll still require a health, education and protection system for children.Recommend

  • Arshad Mahmood

    I think it is very important to start asking and this way we’ll make sure that our political parties think of implementing their manifestos and we see some impact on ground. However, if no one is asking them and or reminding them then it will be a business as usual. I am not sure how many parliamentarians would have read this but keeping in mind the current social media interest I hope that at least a few of them have been reached.Recommend