Published On: Fri, Oct 16th, 2020
Published in Category: Islamabad

Zainab Alert app launched to report missing children in Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Human Rights together with Prime Minister’s Performance Delivery Unit (PMDU) on Thursday launched the “Zainab Alert” app to strengthen efforts to trace missing children and child abuse cases in the country.

A ceremony to mark the momentous occasion was held in Islamabad and attended by Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen M. Mazari and Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar.

Child victim Zainab Ansari’s father Haji Muhammad Amin Ansari pressed the button and launched the app at an event held in Islamabad on Thursday.

Shireen Mazari said that the past government had already begun work on an alert, which was named “mera bacha” (my child) on the prime minister’s portal but it was never completed.

She said the Zainab Alert app has been integrated with district police officers throughout the country. In Punjab, it is linked to 36, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to 33, and in Sindh to 50 district police officers.

The human rights minister said that complaints registered with the app will prompt the police to launch an immediate probe into the matter.

She said that the app has been designed so that making a fake alert is not possible. Mazari said that soon a national directory will be formulated which will work with Edhi and other charities to develop a safety mechanism for children.

The minister added that the ministry of human rights’ existing helpline 1099 will also continue to be available.

To clamp down on such cases, the Zainab Alert Bill 2020 was ratified in March by President Dr. Arif Alvi, effectively making into what he termed an “excellent law”. The bill was passed earlier by both the National Assembly and Senate.

“An excellent law for rapid response & recovery in cases of child kidnappings, ” the president said.

“It will establish toll free helplines, lay down framework for quick police & admin response. It will use & improve upon technology to trace criminals, ” he added.

The law, which provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a Rs1-million fine on child abusers, also dictates that toll-free helplines be established and a framework for quick police and administrative response be laid down.

Moreover, a Zainab Alert, Response, and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) would be established to issue an alert for a missing child. It would work closely with the helpline 1099 or other similar ones.

ZARRA would coordinate with all relevant federal and provincial authorities and law enforcement agencies and maintain an online database of all children reported missing or abducted with their current status.