Through a consultative process, the government plans to combine the legislation on acid crime, prepared by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) on the directives of the chief justice of Pakistan, and the two private member bills on the same issue that have already been tabled in the National Assembly.
Once a consolidated bill will be prepared and approved by all stakeholders, there are chances that it will be presented in the National Assembly by the state. Federal Minister for Women Development Firdous Ashiq Awan shared the information in a meeting with ASF Executive Director Valerie Khan. Officials of the Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) were also present on the occasion.
She said that the bills would be combined mainly to bring the new act in conformity with the technical directives issued by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in a suo moto action taken in the case of acid survivor Naila Farhat in 2009.
Meanwhile, two private member bills titled ‘Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010’ and ‘Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2010’ were also moved as private member bills in the National Assembly.
The ministry officials informed the minister that the Women Parliamentarians Caucus has notified certain gaps in the private member bills. They said that the bill titled ‘Acid Control and Burn Crime Prevention Act 2010’ prepared by the ASF is with the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) for consultation.
After thorough consultation with law experts, the NCSW has decided to divide the legislation into two bills. One bill will deal with crime aspect where as the other part will introduce stringent punishment for those responsible for open sale of acid. “The aim is to introduce the legislation that is not contradictory to other laws,” said Federal Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan.
The proposed act recommends that if acid attack or burn attack has resulted in the death of any person, the culprit should be punished with death and in any other case the offender will be liable to imprisonment and fines in the light of the extent and severity of injuries.
The act also suggests imprisonment for not less than 14 years, which may extend to life imprisonment given the presence of severity or brutality unless the injuries are impermanent and minor. In case no injury occurred as a result of an attack, the legislation suggests seven years imprisonment and liable fine for attempt to commit an offence of acid attack.
From January 2007 to October 2008, about 147 cases of acid burn were notified by the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) with majority of them occurring in Punjab. Among those cases, 77 (60 per cent) were women, 33 were children where as 30 cases of men were reported. In majority of cases, children become victims of acid attack while accompanying their mothers. According to Human Right Watch, the actual number of acid burn cases was much higher. The organisation reported over 1,000 acid attacks only in the year 2002.
Strict punishment for the heinous crime of acid throwing was long demanded by the civil society especially those working for the treatment and rehabilitation of acid burn victims. In addition to severe punishment, their demands also include the implementation of Acid Act that prohibits free sale of acids.
Talking to media persons, the federal minister said that acid burn victims are living dead. “The mental torture they suffer because of the permanent disfigurement of their face and other body parts is far more than the physical pain,” she said adding that proper implementation of law will be the next step to ensure justice for acid burn survivors. She said that collective effort is required for effective implementation of the legislation related to women.