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Lessons from Turkey  

Past glory can be  a great opiate. Loved by Pakistanis, many otherwise excellent Turkish TV serials provide a fair amount of this substance.  They help us to remain locked down in our past, oblivious of our present or future.  The mere fact that Turkey  today has a hundred times  superior protection system for its street  dogs than Pakistan has for its children is not a concern that we are willing to explore or learn from. 

There are at least 5 lessons from Turkish Street Dog Protection System that Pakistan can learn from.  First that it is actually intended for the benefit of dogs and not the organisations who manage this function.  Second,  that it is based on facts and data.  Third, that it is designed to actually and proactively provide shelters, medical treatment,  meals and healthcare to dogs.  Fourth, that  dog protection is not governed by 36 conflicting legislations, but just one comprehensive  law.  And finally  that Turkey accepts no grants from UNICEF,  Bill & Melinda or US Aid for running its Dog Protection Centres or making Dog Protection SOPs.  

The Child Protection System in Pakistan is not intended for the protection of children. It is solely dedicated to the glorification and self-promotion of its  budget-guzzling Bureaus, Commissions and Authorities. In one case a provincial Child Protection  Authority spent its entire annual budget on purchasing cars and furniture for its officials.  Turkey has smartly and efficiently cut through these bureaucratic structures and performs these functions through its Ministries and local Municipal Committees. Pakistan ought to do the same. 

The Turkish dog protection system is based on facts and data.  Each street dog has a digital chip attached to its ear that includes data on the dog’s unique  identity number (for tracking),  date when it was neutered  and details of vaccination.   Pakistan, on the contrary,  has no birth  record of 58% of its children.  For many years, they are denied their unique identity and their birth certificate.    Can one protect what one does not know about? 

The Turkish dog protection system is based on government teams proactively searching  for street dogs, taking  them to shelters where the dogs are given showers, vaccinated, fed and housed.   Pakistan’s self-serving Commissions and Authorities, on the contrary focus on building offices and acquiring cars and perks for themselves. There is not a   single shelter for protection of abused children  any where in Pakistan (except for Punjab).    The Sindh Child Protection Authority unabashedly admits that  “it is not responsible for  establishing or managing any child protection centres”.  The same is true for Islamabad and the other three provinces.    

Unlike Turkey’s single legislation, Pakistan is bogged down by the weight of its own voluminous and conflicting 36 child protection legislations,  with each new law making this burden yet more complicated.  Can Pakistan not agree on the following  7 basic laws for its children.   1). Child abuse and child abandonment are severely punishable offences. (If one can be fined $1,745 for abandoning  a pet animal in Turkey, surely Pakistan could create similar penalties for abandonment and abuse of children);  2). It is forbidden to engage a child below the age of sixteen years in any kind of child labour – domestic, commercial or industrial.  3).  Children between 16 and 18 years can perform only non-hazardous tasks under well defined conditions.  4). Marriages below the age of 18 years are forbidden;  5).  Every child receives compulsory education till the age of 16 years; 6). Children’s begging and living on streets is forbidden; 7). No  school or ‘madrassah’ will operate without executing a  child protection policy.  

Having passed the Act, Pakistan continues to drag its feet in establishing Zainab Alert Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), a national child abuse database and a nation-wide Helpline. It must be willing to  completely re-engineer its child protection system, reduce  legislation  and abolish its dysfunctional Commissions and Authorities. Turkey’s dog protection system may be an excellent model to learn from.

naeem sadiq,  Exp Tribune,  Aug. 26, 2020