First, it said that DNA tests are not admissible as evidence in rape cases. Then it went back, and instead blamed the media for ‘irresponsible reporting’. On Monday, however, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) ruled against the admissibility of the DNA test as ‘primary evidence’. Not only that, the council also ruled against death penalty for anyone making false accusation of blasphemy.
The CII, a constitutional body mandated to Islamise the country’s laws, rejected with one voice the Women Protection Act 2006 which had replaced the controversial Hudood Ordinance of Gen Ziaul Haq’s era.
“It [the DNA test] cannot replace the Islamic law requirement of four witnesses to determine rape,” CII Chairman Maulana Muhammad Khan Sheerani, who belongs to the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, told a news conference on Monday. “The Islamic law requirements as enshrined in the Hudood laws are the only primary evidence in rape cases.”
However, the DNA test is a scientific advancement and cannot be ignored altogether, he said. It’s the court prerogative to determine where the DNA test could be used as ‘supplementary evidence’.
On the blasphemy laws, Maulana Sheerani said the CII agreed there was no need to amend them. Ironically, one of the council members, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, made headlines on Wednesday when he claimed that the CII has reached a consensus on recommending the death sentence for convicted ‘false accusers’ in blasphemy cases.
Maulana Sheerani said punishment for false accusation and false registration of cases are already given in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). “Sections 194 and 211 of the PPC deal with false statement and registration of false cases, respectively. These can be applied to blasphemy cases as well,” he added.
Ruling out death penalty for a false accuser, the CII chairman said the person who makes a false blasphemy accusation against anyone can be tried under 194 PPC and punished accordingly. If enforced properly, this could very well serve as a deterrent, he added.
According to Maulana Sheerani, the CII agreed that many provisions of the Women Protection Act were contrary to the Holy Quran and Sunnah. “For instance, fornication is not a punishable offence under the act while under the Islamic laws it is considered as rape,” he added.
The council has conveyed its recommendations to parliament. “Now, it’s for the legislature to act upon the council’s advice and make necessary amendments,” he added. “We cannot force the legislature.” However, he added that a CII petition was pending in the Federal Shariat Court seeking a direction to the legislature to act upon the council’s advisory quickly.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2013.