National Parliamentary Task Force on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Convener Riaz Fatyana on Monday said safeguarding the children from all forms of violence was a key priority area for the government. Mentioning The Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill, 2020 and support by the government for the National Assembly Bill on Corporal Punishment, he said Pakistan’s progress towards SDGs was satisfactory. He said this while addressing a seminar on COVID-19 and Elimination of Violence against Children, organized by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) here at a local hotel. The seminar was aimed to create awareness about the rising trends of violence against children during the ongoing pandemic. Riaz Fatyana acknowledged that unfortunately Pakistan had not delivered on its international and national commitments towards child rights however, the present government was striving to change this situation. In addition, Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies established SDGs Task Forces to oversee the progress on the goals, he added. Addressing on the occasion, Special Group on Child Rights of the National Parliamentary Task Force on SDGs Chairperson, Member of the National Assembly Mehnaz Akbar Aziz highlighted the role and functions of the SDGs Special Committee and task force. She discussed in detail the progress of SDGs especially regarding SDGs 16.2. She said parliamentarians from different parties were supporting the government in the realization of commitments under SDGs. All the parliamentarians and members of the Task Force were playing an active role in highlighting key issues and supporting the completion of various tasks, she added. National Commission on Child Rights Chairperson Afshan Tehseen Bajwa told the participants that the Voluntary National Review (VNR) was a process through which countries assess and present progress made in achieving the global goals and the pledge to leave no one behind. Pakistan’s VNR was done in July 2019, during a high level political forum on SDGs, she said and added that improved legislation, institutional mechanisms, resource allocation, trained human resource and cross sectoral partnerships were required to ensure complete survival, protection and development of our children. SPARC Project Manager Khalil Ahmed Dogar said Pakistan was the first country to adopt SDGs 2030 agenda through a unanimous resolution of parliament. Therefore its responsibility of the state to ensure all indicators of SDGs were met, especially Goal 16.2 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’. Under target 16.2, the state should aim to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children which had increased during COVID-19 pandemic, he expressed. He mentioned the third six-monthly report launched by Sustainable Social Development Organisation, titled ‘Tracking numbers’, which noted that child abuse cases were increased three times in the second half compared to the first half of the year. Punjab reported maximum cases of child abuse followed by Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The participants including child rights activists and parliamentarians agreed that there was a dire need to end violence against children in Pakistan.