AJK moves for ban on early-age marriages

MIRPUR (AJK), Dec 30 (APP):Azad Jammu Kashmir Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan Monday fully endorsed the proposed move for imposition of complete ban on early-age marriages of the children under 18 years of age in the state.

He, however, suggested to consult Islamic Ideological Council of Azad Jammu & Kashmir to take the religious fraternity on board on the move. Raja Farooq Haider expressed these views while speaking, as a chief guest, at a seminar hosted in the State’s m metropolis Monday evening.

The seminar was hosted by Azad Jammu & Kashmir Population Welfare Department, with the support of UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund) and coordination of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Govt. of Pakistan.

The AJK prime minister described the rapid population growth as one of the core issues confronted by Pakistan and resolved to make AJK a region where universal access to family planning for married couples would be made available as part of state’s obligation.

‘’AJK government will make all possible efforts to strengthen family planning facilities through functional integration with health department to secure better service delivery in reproductive healthcare,” he resolved, adding only a balanced family size can guarantee the secured future of their children with proper grooming and education and only a sensible approach can contribute for a healthy society and nation.

He assured to provide all resources required to department for proper service delivery. Addressing the seminar, AJK minister for population welfare, TEVTA & IT, Dr. Mustafa Bashir Abbasi while giving vote of thanks, paid tribute to Prime Minister AJK for his unwavering support to the department for the cause of population management leading to a healthy society. He highlighted the achievements of the department for improved reproductive healthcare service delivery in AJK.

He while referring the recommendations of Federal Task Force and Council of Common Interests assured to follow the spirit of action plan that has already been finalised in consultation with Technical Support Unit established for the purpose.

He appreciated the role of UNFPA for renewing its activities in AJK region and looked forward to work with high spirit for the cause in the region in collaboration with public and private sectors.

Secretary AJK population welfare department Raja Muhammad Razzaque while highlighting the international, national and regional population demographic and social indicators, presented the eight core areas under CCI approved recommendations with specific focus on proposed legislation for Early Child Marriages Restraint Act.

He while referring the examples of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Iran, underlined that its the political will that can tangibly contribute for lowering population growth rate in a country or region.

Irshad Ahmed Qureshi Secretary Law, Justice, Parliamentary Affairs & Human Rights Govt. of AJK presented the salient features of the proposed legislation for Early Child Marriage Restraint Act in AJK while referring to the examples from Sindh and Punjab Provinces. He responded various questions of the participants.

Similarly, Dr. Idrees Abbasi, Secretary to AJK President while making a presentation in the perspective of international law, linked family planning with human right approach and supported the proposed piece of legislation. Likewise, Dr. Nosheena Shabbir, a local Gynaecologist while speaking to the seminar shed light on medical problems associated with early marriages.Her arguments were also followed by Dr. Bushra Shams.

The seminar was aimed at sensitising the stakeholders for the implications entailed in rapid population growth in the country and disseminating the salient features of proposed legislation for Child Marriages Restraint Act. Besides the ministers and legislatures, the seminar was largely attended by senior government functionaries including the officials related to the legislation process in AJK.

It is important to highlight that the President of Pakistan recently on December 23, 2019 chaired the first meeting of federal task force on rapid population growth which was attended by all four chief ministers, federal ministers of all important ministries while AJK was represented by Dr. Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, Minister for Population Welfare as prime minister was in saudi arabia for performance of umra.

The President of Pakistan urged the federal ministries, provincial and regional governments to work with coherence and consistency to improve population demographic indicators in the country while learning lessons from neighbouring countries and he in particularly referred the Iran and Bangladesh.

It is worth mentioning that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) while keeping in view the challenges faced by Pakistan and under the directive of Supreme Court of Pakistan approved a set of recommendations aiming at accelerating the efforts of the Government to reduce Population Growth Rate (PGR), lower Total Fertility Rate (TFR) and increase Contraceptive Prevalence Rate (CPR).

The federal government retains the fostering role of sharing vision/guidelines for advancing national development perspective while as a result of 18th amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan, the subject of population has been devolved to the provinces. However, to the extent of regions (AJK, GB& ICT) the subject continuously falls within responsibility of the federal government. The seminar focused on one of key recommendations of CCI i.e. required legislation to achieve the objective in real spirit.

The seminar turned as great source of awareness for the policy makers and Its very much obvious that it will yield positive results in taking viable measures including required legislation to reduce PGR, lower TFR and increase CPR in Pakistan as well as AJK.

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