Child kidnappings

Kidnapping of a child scorches the soul of a parent. No nightmare could be worse, and yet this scourge continues to haunt citizens in Pakistan on a daily basis. In recent weeks the numbers of reported cases of child abductions have soared across the country sowing panic among people. Punjab appears to be the worst affected while other provinces have also been swept by a wave of fear and concern. Parliamentarians from the PPP have raised the issue in the National Assembly while the Supreme Court has also conducted hearings on the matter. The government of Punjab has moved swiftly to form a task office and the hyper-active chief minister is reported to be personally supervising matters.

But this is not enough. While a jittery citizenry needs to be calmed down, the governments are not helping matters by framing the issue wrongly. This is not a matter of numbers, as the Punjab government is needlessly arguing. Even one child kidnapped is one too many. The real issue is what concrete steps are being taken to address the issue. The existing laws are clearly not stringent enough. There is a growing realisation that amendments need to be introduced to these laws so they conform to the severity of the crime. As a first step, kidnapping cases should be referred to the Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATC) and tried under the amended laws. There exists a strong case to push through this legislation in the larger public interest and ensure strict compliance and application of the laws. The legislation itself however will mean little if the prosecution is unable to build the case with proper evidence. The federal and provincial governments therefore need to pay special attention to professionalising their prosecution wings and equipping them with training and resources so that kidnapping cases can be taken to a logical conclusion through the justice system. This is not a time to sow fear and hysteria; it is a time to act decisively against kidnappers and hand down the death penalty to those found guilty of this heinous crime.

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