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Police app to centralise child abuse monitoring


LAHORE:

After failing to achieve any substantial progress on Amber Alert System by the federal government, the Punjab Police decided to launch its own app to monitor incidents of missing, disappeared or abducted children.

The issue of child abuse in Pakistan was highlighted globally after the Zainab rape-cum-murder case. The government had decided to launch Zainab Alert, a local version of Amber Alert, a coordinated, centralised system to disseminate information about missing children and their recovery.

Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Act 2019 was also passed by the government. Under the bill, a body Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA) was to be established on the pattern of Amber Alert to inform public and enforcement agencies and recover a missing child through one window operations.

Even after the Zainab murder case, a large number of children had gone missing but the ZARRA is yet to be launched and the police decided to fill the gap through its own app.

The decision has been taken during a high-level meeting chaired by the Inspector General of Punjab Police (IGP) Inam Ghani at his office on Friday.

The meeting was attended by Additional IG Operations Sahibzada Shehzad Sultan, DIG IT Waqas Nazir, DIG R&D Shahid Javed, DIG Crimes and Investigation Punjab, Ahmad Nawaz Cheema along with other officers. The IGP said child disappearance or abduction complaints should be automatically updated in the app through Pukaar 15 calls at the police station and service centres.

He also said a digital app for close monitoring of missing, abducted or abused children across the province should be developed. In the app, missing or abducted child requests received from all sources including 15 calls, police stations and service centres will automatically be updated.

It will help ensure effective mutual coordination for the safe return of children of their parents without delay.

He further said in view of child protection, the new app should be developed as soon as possible and be made available to the general public on Google Play Store so that parents and heirs of missing children could register themselves on the app and easily reach the police with a single click.

He further said supervisory officers should focus on immediate action and co-operation for the safe return of a child on the report of missing or abducted on the app as the delay in police action in cases of missing, abducted, tortured and abused children is not tolerated at any cost.

He said co-operation and close liaison of the police across Punjab was key for the safe recovery of missing, sexually abused and abducted children, therefore, the supervisory officers in the above-mentioned cases especially should take benefit from modern forensic science and information technology so that the process of bringing the accused involved in these crimes to justice could be expedited.

The IG Punjab while further sharing the features and functions of the app said through the new app, the report of missing, disappeared or abducted children in any district of the province will be sent to all the police stations and field formations of Punjab at the same time which will help in taking immediate steps for the safe return of these children.

IGP added that if a missing child from Lahore or any other district goes to another district or is abducted, the local police will not only be alerted but also mobilised for the recovery of the children as well as bringing those responsible to book. While speaking to The Express Tribune, Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Chairperson Sarah said protection of children was a collective responsibility and all departments concerned must work together in liaison.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2021.

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