NGOs going on with illegal acts’
LAHOREThe four NGOs which deal in runaway, lost and destitute children in the city are functioning despite their alleged involvement in “illegal activities”. The Child Protection and Welfare Bureau had requested the Punjab Social Welfare and Baitual Maal Department to immediately close down the Idara Khidmat-i-Khalq (Old Anarkali), Al-Nijat Foundation (Allama Iqbal Town), Children Help Council (Badami Bagh) and the Idara Khidmat-i-Insaniyat (Liaquat Chowk, Sabzazar Scheme) for their involvement in illegal activities, but no action has so far been taken against them.
The CPWB received a number of complaints that these NGOs were illegally taking lost, runaway and destitute children into custody and returning them to their parents\guardians after charging a handsome amount from them. “During custody the children are tortured and no proper food is given to them,” the bureau said, describing it as “illegal confinement”. It further noted that the NGOs in question neither allowed the government officials to check their record nor did they ever produce the rescued children before court.
According to the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act of 2004, only a child protection officer may take into custody a destitute and neglected child and produce him or her before court within 24 hours after taking the child into custody. “Whosoever takes a destitute and neglected child into custody or keeps him or her in contravention of the provisions of this act, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with a fine which may extend to Rs50,000 or both.”
When contacted CPWB director (programme) Zubair Ahmad Shad said the City District Government of Lahore and the Social Welfare Department were responsible for checking the activities of these NGOs. He said the bureau had received scores of complaints against the NGOs and also had evidence that could prove their (NGOs) illegal activities. “No NGO dealing in runaway, lost and destitute children in the city can work without seeking collaboration with the CPWB as it is the only government entity,” he said and added that playing with the lives of such innocent children was the most heinous crime and the people involved in the business must be dealt with an iron fist.
Sources said the social welfare department had sent its officials to check the record of these NGOs, but one of them did not allow them to enter the premises while the remaining refused to produce the record. However, they said the department had banned taking destitute children into custody by these NGOs on the premises of Data Darbar. They said Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi had directed the authorities concerned to monitor activities of the NGOs working against children’s exploitation and their illegal confinement. The chief minister had also sought a comprehensive report from the SWD secretary who is yet to comply with the directions.