National laws refer to laws with national jurisdiction.

Pakistan Penal Code, 1860

The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) is the main criminal code of Pakistan. It was originally drafted in 1860 during the British colonial period, and it continues to be used in the country today. The PPC contains a variety of offences, including murder, theft and fraud, as well as provisions relating to the administration of justice, such as procedures for arrest and trial. Specifically for minors, the code includes provisions that define and criminalize acts such as child abuse, abduction, trafficking, exploitation, and neglect.

Moreover, the Code establishes the legal consequences for individuals who commit crimes against children. By outlining clear penalties and punishments for such offenses, the code acts as a deterrent, discouraging individuals from engaging in harmful behaviors towards minors. This enforcement mechanism aims to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and seek justice for the victims.  The PPC applies to all citizens of Pakistan and to all other persons residing in the country, irrespective of their nationality.

Guardian and Wards Act, 1890

The Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 provides a legal framework that governs matters related to guardianship, custody of minors and their property. It outlines the procedures for the appointment of guardians, their duties, and the protection of children’s rights in cases of disputes or uncertainties regarding their care. The Act establishes mechanisms to ensure that decisions regarding the welfare of children are made in their best interests. It sets guidelines for the appointment of guardians based on factors such as the child’s welfare, moral upbringing, and overall development. 

Additionally, the Act addresses issues related to the custody, maintenance, and education of children, aiming to provide a stable and nurturing environment for their growth. It also facilitates the resolution of disputes concerning guardianship, custody, or visitation rights, prioritizing the welfare and rights of children in accordance with the law.

The West Pakistan Maternity Benefit Ordinance, 1958 

The West Pakistan Maternity Benefit Ordinance, 1958 ensures the well-being and protection of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. By providing maternity leave, financial assistance, and safeguards against discrimination, the ordinance promotes gender equality and supports women’s reproductive rights. The ordinance contributes to the overall development and welfare of society by fostering a more inclusive and equitable work culture in Pakistan. 

Section 3 prohibits the employment or work of women in any establishments for a period of six weeks after childbirth. Section 4 deals with the right to and liability for the payment of maternity benefits. The provision states that eligible women have the right to receive maternity benefits during their period of maternity leave. Additionally, the employer is liable to pay these benefits to the woman at the rate of her wages or salary for the duration of her leave, provided the individual has been employed for a minimum of four months prior to childbirth. Section 7 prohibits an employer from terminating or dismissing a woman from her employment during her maternity leave period without a reasonable cause. The purpose of these provisions is to protect women from unfair treatment and ensure job security during this critical time. Moreover, Section 9 prescribes punishment for an employer who contravenes any provision of this Ordinance, in which case the individual shall be liable to a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees. 

Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960

The Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960 is a law in Pakistan that provides for the release of first-time offenders on probation rather than imprisonment. The law applies to offenders who have been convicted of a non-violent crime and have not previously been convicted of any offense. Under the law, the court has discretion to release an offender on probation, subject to certain conditions. The offender may be required to report to a probation officer, refrain from committing any further offenses, and participate in educational or vocational training programs.  The law also provides for the supervision of offenders on probation, may also impose other conditions, such as restitution or community service, and empowers courts to revoke probation and impose a sentence of imprisonment if the offender violates the conditions of probation.

The Probation of Offenders Ordinance, 1960 also provides a mechanism for the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders into society. It offers an alternative to imprisonment for young offenders by allowing them to be placed on probation under the supervision of a probation officer. By utilizing the Ordinance, the legal system focuses on the rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who have committed offenses. This approach aims to address the underlying causes of delinquent behavior, provide support for the child’s rehabilitation, and prevent future criminal activities. It emphasizes the importance of guiding and assisting juvenile offenders in their personal development and helping them become productive members of society.

The purpose of the law is to provide offenders with an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and become productive members of society, while also reducing overcrowding in prisons. For juvenile offenders, it acknowledges the unique needs and vulnerabilities of young offenders and seeks to provide them with appropriate support and guidance to prevent further involvement in criminal activities. 

Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) was enforced in August 2016, as a Federal Legislation regulating nationwide in Pakistan. The legislation primarily aims to address and prevent electronic crimes. The main objective of the Act is to combat various forms of cybercrime, including unauthorized access to computer systems, electronic fraud, cyber bullying, and online harassment. 
The Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, 2023 has amended the PECA, 2016 in July 2023 by incorporating a more focused approach towards preventing offenses of a sexual nature against children. This amendment has shaped the Act to deal with cases relating to child sexual abuse by criminalising child pornography under Section 22, online grooming, solicitation and cyber enticement under Section 22A, commercial sexual exploitation of children under Section 22B, use of information system for kidnapping, abducting or trafficking of minor under Section 22C and cyber bullying under Section 24A etc. 
In light of the recent amendments to the PECA 2016, Section 30 authorises the Islamabad Police to take cognizance of cybercrime and investigate every lodged complaint with proficiency as an independent body through the newly inaugurated Cyber Crime Investigation Unit. This serves as an important initiative to hinder the rapid increase in cybercrime subjecting children. 

National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017

The National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017 is a law in Pakistan that aims to protect and promote rights of children through the establishment of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC). The NCRC is an independent and autonomous body has the mandate to examine and review policies, laws, practices, and proposals. The commission has the power to inquire into violations of children’s rights, conduct research, raise awareness, build capacities, provide technical support and advise the Government on legislative and policy matters by virtue of the National Commission on the Rights of Child Act, 2017.

Read NCRC Act, 2017 with Jan 2022 Amendments Here

Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018

The Juvenile Justice System Act, 2018 is a law in Pakistan that governs the treatment of children who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The Act is designed to protect the rights of children and to ensure that their needs are taken into account when they are dealt with by the legal system. The Act applies to all children under the age of 18 and stipulates that children shall be treated differently from adults in the criminal justice system, recognizing their age, maturity, and vulnerability. The Act provides for special procedures for the arrest, detention, trial and punishment of children, and also provides for the establishment of Juvenile Justice Systems institutions, such as juvenile courts and rehabilitation centers, where children will be held. The Act also includes provisions for the protection of children’s rights, including the right to legal representation, the right to be informed of their rights, the right to be heard in court and the right to be protected from abuse, torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The Act classifies criminal offences into three categories. First, minor criminal offences, for which the maximum punishment under the Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 is imprisonment for a term of up to three years, with or without a fine. A juvenile is entitled to bail in the case of minor offences, with or without surety bonds issued by a Juvenile Court. Second, major criminal offences, which are subject to punishment under the Penal Code of more than three years and up to seven years, with or without fine. Bail can also be granted in the case of major offences, with or without surety bonds issued by a Juvenile Court. Third, heinous criminal offences are serious, brutal, or shocking to public morality. Under the Penal Code, these offences are punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment for more than seven years, with or without fine. A juvenile under the age of 16 is entitled to bail for heinous criminal offences. Bail is granted at the discretion of a court if a juvenile is over the age of 16.

Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018

The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2018 is an important legislation regarding human trafficking crimes that is applicable throughout in Pakistan. The Act primarily aims to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, especially with regard to women and children; to promote and facilitate national and international co-operation in the matter; and to protect the trafficking victims. 
Section 3 of the Act criminalises forced labour and sexual trafficking but more importantly, Section 3(2) specifies that where the offence is perpetrated against a child or a woman, the severity of the penalties increases. In such cases, the perpetrator is subjected to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, with a minimum sentence of two years, a fine of up to one million rupees, or both. 
The Act imposes liability on the local Police and FIA respectively, to carry out investigations pertaining to internal trafficking and external trafficking. Moreover, the Act highlights the importance of raising awareness regarding trafficking crimes and emphasizes upon national and international cooperation in the matter to curb the peril of this offence. It further discusses the significance of data collection on the matter to identify, not only the factors that lead to trafficking but also the offenders and the victims.

Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020

The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Act, 2020 is a law that was passed to help combat the issue of abduction and missing children in the country. The Act is named after Zainab Ansari, a young girl who was abducted, raped and murdered in 2018, which led to widespread public outrage and protests in Pakistan. “Section 3” of the Act provides for establishment of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency .  The Act provides ease of use to the missing child’s parents/guardians to notify the Police. The Act also provides a process for the local police department to issue an emergency alert using an emergency broadcasting system on mobile phones within a 20 km region where the child was last seen. A major key feature of the Act is to establish a national database of missing and recovered children applicable across Pakistan. 

Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Act, 2021

The Anti-rape (Investigation and Trial) Act, 2021 was enacted to ensure expeditious redressal of rape and sexual abuse crimes concerning women and children. The Anti-Rape Investigation and Trial Act, 2021 focuses on improving the investigation and trial processes related to rape cases, which includes measures such as minimizing the trauma experienced by child victims during interviews, medical examinations, and court proceedings.

Section 2(b) and 2(k) specifies that a woman or a child under 18 years of age of any gender qualifies as a subject for the purposes of this Act in cases where the offences under Schedule II, more specifically PPC 1860 Section 292A, 371A, 371B, 375, 375A, 376, 377A, 377B and PECA 2016 Section 21 and 22, 22A, 22B, 22C, 24, 24A, are being taken into consideration.

Moreover, the Act enforces effective measures to be taken in order to eradicate legislative gaps that tend to overlook victims of such offences. These include Anti-Rape Crisis Cells; a special Joint Investigation Team (JIT); Special Courts to facilitate efficient procedures; and a Victim and Witness Protection System etc. emphasizing the need for swift justice given the gravity of the situation at hand.


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