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Juvenile Delinquents: The need to rescue Pakistan’s future

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Juvenile Justice Systems Ordinance (JJSO), introduced by General Musharraf in 2000 defines a juvenile as a person under the age of 18 years. The ordinance prohibits the execution of minors. The JJSO aimed to protect and reform the juvenile delinquents. However, the weaknesses of Pakistan’s Juvenile justice system have either subjected innocent children to take the blame of other people’s crimes or have let the actual delinquents go free because they belonged to influential families. In Pakistan, juvenile justice is delayed and denied.
Aftab Bahadur was accused of the murder of a woman and her two children at the age of 15. He was tortured into confessing the crime. His plea for clemency by the British rights group, Reprieve was refused. On June 10th 2015, Aftab was sentenced to death after spending 23 years in prison – which is almost twice the punishment for the crime. The only witness to the crime recanted his testimony later and said that the police had coerced him to speak against Aftab even though he was not even present at the crime scene.
Shafqat Hussain was arrested for the killing of a 7-year-old boy when he was 14 years old. The crime took place in 2004 and he was executed on 1st September 2015 for a crime he was tortured into confessing. His execution had been delayed several times due to his lawyers trying to prove that he was a minor.
In both aforementioned cases the children were punished for crimes they did not commit and death penalty was unjustly served. The arrested and tortured minors executed after serving the sentence an adult criminal would have served is evident of a flawed legal system. The mishandling of evidence, mistreatment of juveniles and criminals, and delayed proceedings are all the problems that need to be rectified.
There are no age determining steps taken when a criminal is brought in a police station.Most of the young boys lie about their ages and most of them do not have Birth Certificates or proper identification to determine their ages. The FIR is filed hastily by the officers, and they judge the ages by physical appearances, based on which these under 18 juveniles are treated as adult criminals.
Pakistan has only seven juvenile detention centers, two in Punjab, four in Sindh and one in KPK which is not operational. Due to lack of resources most of the Juvenile offenders are kept in adult prisons, and sometimes even in the same jail cell. The detention centers are for the male offenders only. Female juveniles are sent to the adult female prisons. The facilities are outdated, they are without a proper guidance counsellor and there is no vocational training.
As per the law, a juvenile center is supposed to be with minimum security. However, in reality, there is no difference in treatment of an adult and a juvenile criminal. The same guards, the handcuffs, no guidance system, the physical abuse, it is notonly common, but it is disregarded. JJSO requires medical doctors and psychologists to be available at the juvenile centers. The juveniles in prisons are denied this facility as well. This corruption on the individual level is a hurdle for justice all over the country. Lack of facilities and implementation of laws for juveniles kills the essence of JJSO which was to be reformatory.
As per the latest available data by the World Bank, the population between 0 and 14 years of age is 35.05 percent of Pakistan’s total population. Hence, it is critical to address the implementation of juvenile laws. The young minds are impressionable, and it must be ensured that these delinquents make their way to reformation and a brighter future. Their treatment in our country has only exposed them to the wrong way of life which will be detrimental to Pakistan’s human capital development in the long run. The state must act to protect the vulnerable and perhaps seek assistance from countries like Britain or Iran who have not only established but also implemented juvenile laws.