The government was in a generous mood on Tuesday, allowing almost a dozen private bills to pass through the National Assembly. However, legislation proposing stricter punishment for crimes against women, including forced marriages, was not accepted by the house due to objections that it was poorly drafted.
National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza directed the law ministry to vet the draft of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act 2008 to remove some minor but critical mistakes. She asked them to make the changes and resubmit the bill to the house within a week. She also criticised the absence of Law Minister Maula Bux Chandio from the house.
The draft of the act preventing anti-women practices included punishment for depriving women of their share of hereditary property. Seven years imprisonment and a fine of Rs1 million is proposed.
The minimum punishment for imposing forced marriage on a woman, the draft proposed, would be imprisonment up to three years and a Rs500,000 fine.
In cases where a woman was married to the Quran, a practice not uncommon in interior Sindh, the punishment proposed is more than three years in jail term and a fine of Rs 500,000.
The bill was deferred for a week after a member from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said that proposing a minimum limit for a crime would be in contradiction of the basic spirit of law. PPP stalwart Justice (retd) Fakhar un Nisa Khokhar also objected to a clause in the bill proposing inheritance for women in moveable property.
Among the other bills tabled were three seeking amendment to the country’s constitution. One of the bills was aimed at seeking parliament’s approval for any agreement in which a foreign force was allowed to intervene in the country’s territorial limits.
Another proposal from the PPP’s Khurram Wattoo called for the approval by parliament of all agreements, pacts and deals with other countries in the field of defence within a month of their signing.
Finally, an amendment from the PML-N’s Naseer Bhutta proposed that the Supreme Judicial Council must decide a reference against the judge of a superior court within six months of filing. In another amendment, Bhutta proposed an age limit of 40 years for the appointment of a High Court judge.
The house will meet again on Wednesday afternoon.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2011.