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US lists Pakistan as top recruiter for child soldiers?

Pakistan has been added to the US' annual list of countries recruiting child soldiers. Being added to the list can result in military sanctions and restrictions on Pakistan’s participation in peacekeeping programs.

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The US has added Pakistan to Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA) list on Thursday, a designation that can result in harsh penalties on military aid and Pakistan’s participation in peacekeeping programs.

The classification is part of the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which assigns countries to different categories based on their efforts to combat human trafficking.

The US Child Soldiers Prevention Act mandates that a list of foreign countries that recruited or employed child soldiers in the preceding year be included in the annual TIP report (April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021). Armed forces, police, other security forces, and government-supported armed organizations are among the entities scrutinized for this classification.

Read more: Child abuse in Pakistan: A menace to society!

According to the US State Department, a “child soldier” is any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces.

The term “child soldier” is also applied to a person under the age of 18, who is serving in any capacity, including in a transport role, such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.

In this year’s CSPA list, the US has added Afghanistan, Burma, Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Read more: United Nations issue warnings to Pakistan for executing children!

Consequences of being on the CSPA list

Countries added to the CSPA list will be prohibited from participating in US programs such as International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations.

The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such countries.

The restrictions will begin from October 1st, 2021, and will be effective throughout Fiscal Year 2022.

“Child soldiers” in Pakistan

In Pakistan, citizens can enlist for voluntary military services upon reaching 16 years of age, however, they cannot be deployed for combat until age 18 as per the Constitution of Pakistan.

According to the Constitution, children cannot be used for combat in Pakistan, but children are still used by militants and illegal terror groups to carry out acts of violence.

Read more: 18 arrested for allegedly brainwashing and selling children: Italy

Children, mostly young boys, are trained by insurgent groups as slaves, or thieves, even bombers. Most of the suicide bombers are between 12 and 18 years of age, however, they can also be recruited at the ages of 5, 6, and 7.

While combatting terror groups with the country, Pakistan’s Armed forces have rescued such “child soldiers” and have sent them to rehabilitation centers to de-radicalize them.

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