With over 40% of Pakistan’s population comprising children, those under the age of 18 are still not a top priority of the government — a fact that can be depicted from budget allocations for children’s welfare.
In Punjab, which is not only the country’s biggest province in terms of population but also the most well-to-do in terms of resources, of the Rs2.2 trillion budget for 2020-21, only Rs496 million were allocated for the Child Protection and Welfare Bureau (CPWB).
Iftikhar Mubarak of Search for Justice (CSJ) expressed concern and said the allocated budget was not enough to protect the children of Punjab with a total population of over 110 million.
He added that this budget was allocated for destitute and neglected children, who run away from their homes and start begging on the streets. “The government should establish institutes which can provide shelter, food, education and free medicine to children if their parents are incapable of doing so,” he asserted. He said that the CPWB with its meagre budget does care for some such children, there are no measures or resources to care for vulnerable children residing in their own homes. “They are deprived of education, health and protection, and beaten and forced to do labour work.”
According to Mubarak, there is no mechanism to protect children in their homes if they are beaten by their parents. Moreover, he called for implementing the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act 2014 in letter and spirit. The law directs free education for children in the province.
Comparing the budget figures of the province, he lamented that Rs1,537 million have been allocated for the Punjab Assembly, while Rs490 million have been earmarked for the Governor House’s upkeep and salaries. Similarly, Rs859 million have been allocated for the Chief Minister’s Office and Rs983 million for public relations.