ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Wednesday approved a draft bill raising the minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 years, Express News reported.
The Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018 seeks to increase the minimum age by which women can marry after attaining the age of 18. Currently, the legal age for marriage for women in the country is 16 years, while that for men is 18 years.
Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari maintained that Tehreek-E-Insaf had no objection on the proposed amendment and that the proposed bill would be tabled in the parliament next month.
Briefing the committee, Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah said that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) should be on board to ensure that the decision was taken in accordance with religious principles.
However, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MPA Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif argued that the CII's opinion was not necessary for introducing legislative amendments.
‘Child marriages a grave threat to girls’ lives’
The bill had earlier been presented in the Senate by PPP lawmaker Sherry Rehman proposing an amendment to raise the minimum age of marriage from 16 to 18 years. But Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani forwarded the document to the human rights committee for further debate.
"This bill has been presented in order to stop child marriage. A similar legislation was already adopted by the Sindh Assembly. This bill, however, will also apply on Islamabad," Senator Rehman said.
"Eighteen years should be declared the age of adulthood in the country and the world 'child' should be clarified," she said, observing that 21 per cent of child deaths in the country occurred due to childhood marriages.
She told the committee that Pakistan ranked second on the list of countries with the highest child marriage rates.
Senator Rehman said that the age for marriage all over the world was 18 years whereas people under that age were considered children.
Committee chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar condemned child marriages and observed that "underage marriages give birth to a range of social and economic problems".
After the Senate Standing Committee on Interior rejected the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on Sahiwal incident, Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights also refuted the move and demanded the formation of a judicial commission to provide justice to victims' families.
‘Child marriage denies youth to fulfil potential’
Punjab Additional Home Secretary Fazeel Asghar, in his briefing to the standing committee admitted that the method employed by the Counter Terrorism department personnel was wrong and that they should have first checked to see who was in the car despite their reservations about the alleged presence of a terrorist inside.
The committee demanded to know under what provision of law was Zeeshan killed and not arrested.
As per briefing by the police and home department, Zeeshan was under observation due to his alliance with Adeel Hafeez, a Da'ish terrorist killed in an encounter on 15 January, 2019.
The committee asserted that if his whereabouts were known why he was not taken into custody earlier.
Committee Chairman Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that the non-serious attitude of the government could be assessed from the fact that even the ToRs (Terms of Reference) of JIT were not defined.
Khokhar pointed out that one of the children, in his statement following the tragedy, said that his father had begged to offer money so they could be spared. To this, Asghar replied that the child's grief could have influenced his statement.
In response, Senator Barrister Saif warned not to take the child's statement lightly. He said that the police should not even be allowed to constitute the JIT as it must have erased all evidences.
"Where are the jackets and explosives that the [CTD] claimed to have found [from the car]? If these [objects] have not been presented still, then it means the evidence has been altered," the barrister said.
"If your purpose was only to kill, then it means you have become a killing squad," Saif remarked, questioning how many more innocents may have been killed in so-called encounters.
On January 19, four people — including three members of a family — were killed in an alleged encounter in Sahiwal. CTD personnel said they had killed a local commander of militant organisation Da'ish and three others in the operation. Eyewitnesses, however, denied the claim and said the people in the car did not fire at officials, nor were any explosives recovered from the vehicle.
The dead included the driver of the car Zeeshan, who the authorities claimed was the suspect; Khalil, his wife and their teenage daughter.
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