What you need to know about the Zainab Alert Bill

National Assembly passed the Zainab Alert Bill for recovery of missing children on Friday

Web Desk
National Assembly passed the Zainab Alert Bill for recovery of missing children on Friday. Photo: File 

On Friday, the parliament passed the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020, eight months after it was first tabled. The bill, which will become law once approved by the Senate, aims to protect and raise alert when a child goes missing or is abducted.

The legislation has been named after Zainab, a six-year-old girl, who was kidnapped from her home in Kasur, and then raped and killed in 2018.

The Act applies to only Pakistan’s capital city, Islamabad and defines the child as anyone under the age of 18 years.

National Assembly passes Zainab Alert Bill for recovery of missing children

Other salient features in the Act:

-Under the new law, a Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) will be set up. The director general of the Agency will be appointed by the prime minister. It will be tasked to maintain a database of missing and abducted children, and work closely with the helpline, 1099, which will forward all reported cases to the Agency.

-In case a child is reported missing, the ZARRA will activate alerts across the federal capital. Information, such as the child’s physical characteristics, habits, clothes ect, will be send to all relevant law enforcement agencies and the public at large.

-In coordinate with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, messages will generated to all service providers regarding the child. Also the information will be sent to all electronic and print media as well as radio stations to disseminate.

  • A helpline, 1099, will be set up to help the public report a missing or abducted child or any information related to a missing child.

  • ZARRA will also issue monthly public reports and updates on its website about missing children.

  • The Agency will set up a mobile application where the public can access all data related to missing and abducted children.

  • In addition, a Child Protection Advisory Board will be established to ensure ZARRA is effectively preforming its functions from the registration of a FIR to the safe recovery of a child and the referral for rehabilitation.

  • The police station, where a case of missing or abducted child is reported shall, immediately, within two hours, inform ZARRA. The bill also prescribes punishment for police officers who are do not comply, or hinder the process of reporting a missing child.

  • The maximum sentence to a perpetrator will be life imprisonment and the minimum sentence will be 10 years.