Pakistan: Children in FATA: How to stop the making of child soldiers

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ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the state of children in the federally administered tribal areas (Fata), Unicef has recommended to the federal government to repeal Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) 1901. The recommendation states that constitutional amendments be made to bring Fata into the mainstream of the country. One of the most vital measures would be to repeal the FCR and introduce a more humane law to deal with adult criminals, separating them from child offenders, and enforcing the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 for the benefit of child offenders.

Unicef, in collaboration with the Commissioner for Children’s Complaints, Federal Ombudsman, Islamabad, in its comprehensive report on the state of children in Pakistan has also made 19 recommendations to improve the conditions of Fata’s children. “This is perhaps the first time that Fata’s children have been discussed in some detail,” the study claimed.

While highlighting the protection of children, the report has included the issue of children in armed conflicts. “The issue of child soldiers needs to be tackled skillfully, taking into account the contributing factors of how children are lured into such a dangerous game,” it warned. It suggests that both the government and NGOs should devise strategies to protect children who are being used or can be exploited for their involvement in the armed conflict. The government should enact legislation to outlaw the recruitment and membership of children by armed groups and penalize those who facilitate such recruitment and membership.

The worst possible consequences of armed conflict are and have been the involvement of children as victims, and recruits, revealed the study. “There have been reports of militants recruiting children and youth, and training them to take part in hostilities, including suicide attacks. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has also acquiesced to the fact that the majority of suicide attacks in the country have been carried out by children and youth.”

Militants use various tactics such as kidnapping, using religious blackmailing and brainwashing in Fata. Two alleged militants confessed before the judicial magistrate that they used to kidnap children from different areas of Karachi and then send them to a training center in Waziristan where they were trained to carry out suicide attacks. A 14-year-old accomplice of the suicide bomber who struck a shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan in 2011 and killed 50, informed the authorities that 400 suicide bombers were being trained to inflict carnage in the country. Umer, 14, who was a Fidayee (a person ready to sacrifice his life) said that the would-be bombers were being trained in North Waziristan. According to the Unicef report, Umer made these remarks in an interview on April, 8, 2011. The young boy said that he was recruited to kill non-Muslims in Afghanistan. He shared some harrowing details of his own recruitment and of some 350-400 children who were being trained in Mir Ali, a sub-division of North Waziristan, to carry out suicide bombing in the country.

According to the report “It is recommended that the Fata plan of action must be formulated with tangible targets for education, health and child protection.” Other recommendations have demanded implementation of the federal government’s child protection policy in Fata, review and introduction of child right laws, strengthening the child protection system, enactment and enforcement of compulsory education law and improving education environment. Further, they include reducing gender parity, recognising and reporting the crimes to a helpline. Important recommendations include forming child protection committees in hospitals, setting-up childcare institutions, mustering financial support for needy students and improving the healthcare system for children.

Source: The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2015.

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