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Child Prisoners in Pakistan: Unveiling the Nexus between Their Plight and Economic Implications
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Article 25(1) of the Pakistani Constitution states that "all citizens are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law." Article 37(a) of the Convention states that "no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."

Pakistan's laws regarding child prisoners do not address the issue of ill-treatment and torture of child prisoners. Children are being subjected to physical as well as emotional violence when they commit a crime. Many children in Pakistan are arrested and detained for minor offenses, such as theft or drug possession. Some are also detained without trial or due process. Proper rehabilitation centers for prisoners are lacking.

Many child prisoners are subjected to physical and psychological abuse by prison staff, including torture and sexual assault. Most of the children do not even complain about the abuse, and they are unable to take any action against it. This can hinder their ability to develop skills and capabilities, limiting their potential contribution to the workforce. As a result, the economy may lose productive individuals who could have otherwise contributed to economic growth.

Children who are arrested and detained in Pakistan face a lifetime of stigma and discrimination, making it difficult for them to reintegrate into society once they are released. They do not receive proper therapy and feel alienated from society, which leads them astray. If these children do not receive appropriate rehabilitation and support, they may become more prone to reoffending or engaging in illegal activities as adults. This perpetuates a cycle of crime and has economic consequences, including the costs of law enforcement, incarceration, and potential loss of productivity.

Many child prisoners suffer from health problems, such as malnutrition, dehydration, and infectious diseases, due to poor living conditions and lack of access to medical care. Their food is not clean, and the lack of proper medical care leads to more infectious diseases. This overburdens hospitals and increases the risk of a rise in the number of deaths among children.

Many child prisoners in Pakistan are held for extended periods of time without trial or due process, violating their rights to a fair trial and presumption of innocence.

The lack of opportunities and employment for students in Pakistan has been a longstanding issue that has led to many negative outcomes. The lack of opportunities leads many students to become unemployed or join violent groups. Lack of access to proper schooling and educational resources can impede their learning and development, making it harder for them to acquire the necessary skills for future employment. This perpetuates cycles of poverty and limits economic progress in the long run. When they have nothing to do, they can easily be manipulated into joining multiple gangs. This is a concerning issue because students who join gangs are at a vulnerable age where they may not fully understand the consequences of their actions. These gangs may provide a sense of belonging and purpose, but the risks are high, including imprisonment, injury, or death.

Additionally, students who become involved in gangs may face ill-treatment from society or authorities. They may be seen as outcasts, and their future prospects may be limited. Examples from the past demonstrate the negative impact that gang involvement can have on young people. In the United States, the 1980s and 1990s were marked by a rise in gang violence, particularly in urban areas. Many young people, particularly those from low-income families, were drawn to gangs as a way to escape poverty and violence in their neighborhoods. However, the consequences were severe, with many young people being killed or imprisoned. The impact on families and communities was devastating. It is crucial to address the lack of opportunities for students in Pakistan and provide them with a better future. Investing in education and creating job opportunities can help prevent students from being drawn into gangs and provide a path to success and a better life.

The ill-treatment of individuals by authorities can have severe and long-lasting impacts on their mental health. Children who experience such trauma may struggle to cope and may even lose their will to survive. Examples from the past demonstrate the devastating impact of ill-treatment. During World War II, the Holocaust saw millions of Jews and other minority groups subjected to horrific treatment by the Nazi regime. Those who survived faced long-lasting trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Similarly, during the apartheid era in South Africa, many black individuals were subjected to violence and brutality by the authorities. The psychological impact of this ill-treatment was significant, with many individuals suffering from mental health issues for years afterward. It is crucial to address ill-treatment by authorities and ensure that individuals are treated with respect and dignity. Providing support and resources for those who have experienced trauma can help them heal and recover from the long-lasting effects of such experiences.

This issue has been brought to the public's attention numerous times through media coverage, and various activists, such as Asma Jahangir, have advocated for it. Consequently, there is an urgent need to make revisions to the Constitution of Pakistan to safeguard the rights of juvenile detainees in the country. If left unaddressed, this issue could lead to hazardous consequences and ultimately undermine the economy.

Farrah Saleem is a public policy student at the National Defense University in Islamabad, interested in the intersections of art and policy. Her academic focus includes exploring the role of geopolitics, and the rise of populist and fascist trends in the contemporary world.

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