Is Pakistan Providing Justice to Juveniles?

A deep dive of how the Pakistani justice system treats juveniles
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Created by Ghaneem Irfan

Published on Apr 19, 2024
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Is Pakistan providing justice to juveniles?

Even if you violate the law, the State still provides you with some basic fundamental rights that every human being is entitled to have. An essential criterion of juvenile justice is when a child commits a crime, he should not be treated as an adult in any court. Many people are deprived of their basic fundamental rights bestowed to them by the law just because of the sole reason that they are unaware of those rights. Although laws safeguarding the rights of juveniles were enacted in my country, juvenile justice still remains largely unimplemented. Law enforcement agencies keep treating juveniles as adults and play a key role in the miscarriage of justice in society. Although the law expressly condemns corporal punishment and the death penalty to juvenile offenders still 10% of the current death row population consists of juvenile offenders.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and their treaties have been endorsed by Pakistan, including juvenile rights. The State must protect the lives of children according to the Constitution. Juveniles are entitled to have special provisions in the eyes of the law. However, their implementation is not visible to the masses, keeping aside the fact that the common man still needs to be made aware of the basic policies of these treaties. The goal of the government should be to implement it to the highest level and make it dominant in society.

According to data from the Express Tribune, in the last 5 years, the rate of snatching and other street crimes has exacerbated, and most of the perpetrators are aged between 15 and 24.  This is i evidence of the alarming rate of juvenile crimes in Pakistan. This raises the question of why there is a surge in juvenile delinquency. The answer lies in the failure of our justice system. It is our justice system that instigates young offenders to be habitual offenders. To reduce delinquency, the government should establish more rehabilitation centers for juveniles. Whether for juveniles or for adults, the mere concept of rehabilitation seems to be missing. The fact that we are currently relying on abysmal facilities for adults means that constructing proper rehabilitation centers for juveniles is a far fetched concept. For instance, there are about 15,000 people fighting drug addiction in one province of Pakistan; however, the province can only accommodate 2000 people. This lack of attention from government officials makes the establishment of juvenile rehabilitation centers arduously difficult.

Child Rights International Network (CRIN) ranks states according to the extent to which their legal systems effectively guarantee children’s right to access justice. The report from 2016 had Pakistan at 119th position out of 197 countries which shows the worrying condition of our justice system. Even as you are reading this, about 1,400 juvenile delinquents rot in Pakistan's prisons. Worst of all, 90 percent of them are still awaiting trial, and many others have either been unjustly incarcerated or subjected to harsh sentences. Aside from this, In developed countries, many cases against minors are not kept on their record as it will affect their future and eliminate the chance of being innocent for the rest of their lives. Keeping this thing aside, in Pakistan, many juveniles are not even treated as juveniles in the courts, let alone keeping their files archived. 

The law states that the trials of juveniles should be held in juvenile courts. But according to research by Amnesty International, juveniles and adult convicts continue to appear in the same court which is a direct violation of the Pakistani law. Consequently, the juveniles are put into jails filled with adult convicts, which has a long-lasting impact on the mindset of juveniles and turns them into criminals for the rest of their lives. In the end, they rightfully blame the State for not providing them a chance to be a law-abiding citizen.

The most important and most ignored right of juveniles is the right to legal assistance. The law states that legal assistance shall be provided to juvenile offenders at the State’s expense. Furthermore, within 24 hours of taking a juvenile into custody, he shall be informed about his legal rights.

Indeed I believe Pakistan is unable to provide justice to the youth due to the poor management and negligence of law enforcement agencies. Pakistan should take specific measures regarding the safe future of juveniles and establish more rehabilitation centers to help juvenile offenders become civilized citizens in their coming life. In this way, the country’s crime rate would decrease considerably and the state officials could focus on other things required to keep Pakistan progressing. However, the government needs international persuasion and pressure to mend their ways. Therefore, I implore the VoiceBox community to help me in mitigating these blatant human rights violations in my homeland, Pakistan.

Content Disclaimer: The views & opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VoiceBox, affiliates, and our partners. We are a nonpartisan platform amplifying youth voices on the topics they are passionate about.

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