Juvenile prisoners face bleak future
By Ghafar Ali
PESHAWAR: The non-implementation of the Juvenile Justice Ordinance-2000 has left thousands of under aged prisoners to languish in jails alongside criminals posing a serious threat to their future.
President Gen Parvez Musharraf enforced the ordinance on July 1, 2002 but its practical enforcement is still awaited. Presently there are 2,000 juvenile prisoners languishing in the jails of the North-west Frontier Province (NWFP) alone out of which 700 are facing trial.
Due to the non-implementation of the ordinance the criminals are taking advantage by using children for criminal activities. People due to sever poverty instead of sending their children to schools put them in shops, hotels and workshops to help their parents to ameliorate their economic woes. These children easily fall pray to the criminal as the latter lure them towards earning more money by using them for smuggling narcotics and other contrabands.
When the law enforcement agencies arrest these children they were sent to jails where no legal assistance is available to them because their parents were not able to arrange legal counsel for them.
Chairman of the Voice of Prisoners Noor Alam Khan advocate told Daily Times the criminals started taking advantage of the juvenile ordinance because death sentence for children was abolished and they started using children for heinous crimes.
“The ordinance provides the juveniles not be kept in ordinary jails but special Borstal Houses be set up for them where they will be given technical training so that after completion of their jail term they could be able to earn a honourable living for themselves,” he said. Mr Alam said unfortunately despite the passage of two-year no Borstal house has been established.
The new law provided, he said, special juvenile courts be established to try juveniles and free legal aid be provided by setting up legal assistance panels but so far nothing was done. The Peshawar High Court through a notification on April 18, 2002 temporarily empowered the district and session judges to try the juvenile but that failed to improved the situation and currently hundreds of children are awaiting trial.
Mr Alam said due to the absence of Borstal houses the juvenile were being kept in the ordinary jails with habitual criminals which has a long term bad effects on the mental health of the kids.
Presently there are 64 children (30 girls and 34 boys) living in jails along with their convicted mothers. They age from 25 days to 8-years and no special arrangement has been made to keep them in special institutions with their mothers.