CCI yet to send Acid and Burn Act draft to Cabinet Division


The Council of Common Interests (CCI) is dragging its feet on the draft of Acid and Burn Crime Act 2011, to be sent the Cabinet Division for approval.
In light of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s orders, the draft of Acid and Burn Crime Act 2011 was formulated after extensive consultations with stakeholders involving civil society, legal and medical experts, local communities, law-enforcement agencies, international organizations, media and survivors. The bill, aims at controlling the import, production, transportation, boarding, sale and the use of acid to prevent its misuse as a corrosive substance and to provide legal support to acid and burn victims.
According to the law, the hospitals treating acid burn victims will be responsible for reporting the matter to the police, an official source told Pakistan Today. However, the state would bear the expenses of medical care including, treatment, therapy, and surgery in addition to the legal expenses during the trial which can be recovered from the convict after a decision in the case. Talking to Pakistan Today, Valerie Khan Yousufzai, executive director, Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), said, “We welcomed the amendment to the Pakistani Penal Code adopted by the National Assembly recently to enhance the punishment for acid crimes as a significant achievement for it acknowledges the gravity of acid crime and enhances punishment for it.”
However, she said, it was not enough to eradicate acid crime from the country; there was a need to adopt comprehensive legislation as had been done by Bangladesh where the number of acid throwing incidents had dropped from 500 a year in 1998 to 60 a year more recently because of effective legislation and improved compliance.
She said the current amendment did not reform the investigation process that often faced delays and was biased against survivors and their families. “There is a need to make police investigation officers accountable and ensure protection of victims and witnesses through the law,” she opined, adding the length of trial also needs to be fixed and accountability should be fixed in case of an unfair trial.
She further said there was a strong need for an authority or a forum to support victims in medical treatment, socio-economic rehabilitation and legal support, besides collecting and maintaining data and establishing an appropriate surveillance system that could facilitate implementation, awareness and preventive measures. She said the easy availability of acids in the open market was one of the major reasons for the increasing incidents of acid throwing on women. To a question, she revealed they had treated 135 patients of acid burn out of the 520 identified cases. It is worth mentioning that Marvi Memon’s amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code that was reviewed by a legal committee, including an ASF legal team in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women and the Ministry of Women Development, were passed by the Standing Committee on Women in the National Assembly on April 9, 2011. An 18-year-old acid victim shared her story with Pakistan Today. About 10 years ago, a man, Arshad, expressed his desire to marry her elder sister. On refusal of the proposal, he and his two accomplices, Zahid and Abid, came to her house at night and threw acid on the family. As a result, the poor girl and her mother were burnt badly. Later, her mother succumbed to burns. Since then the girl has been living a miserable life.