A bill advocating greater social protection for women was shot down in the National Assembly on Tuesday, as some members refused to vote without having received a copy of proposed amendments to the bill.
Interestingly, the objections were raised when Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA SA Iqbal Qadri was reading out the last of the amendments and the house had already discussed and passed four clauses of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill 2010.
“How can we (NA members) participate in voting on such an important bill without being provided copies of the bill?” said former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, speaking on a point of order.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ayaz Amir raised a similar objection, following which Nadeem Afzal Chan, who was presiding over the session, deferred debate on the bill.
PML-Quaid MNA Dr Donya Aziz moved the bill clause by clause after amendments were reported by the National Assembly Committee on Women Development, which had amended clauses 2, 3 and 5.
Earlier, while the bill was being debated, PML-N MNA Mehmood Bashir Virk commented on clause 5 and said that the minimum punishment should be left for the courts to decide.
Party colleague Naseer Bhutta supported Virk’s viewpoint and opined that fixing a minimum punishment term could allow police to misuse the law and falsely implicate people.
According to the amended clause 5, a person found guilty of forcing a woman into marriage under tribal customs or practices, such as wanni and swara, or for settling a dispute shall be imprisoned for at least three years and pay a fine of 500,000 rupees.
Section 498A of the amended clause 3 proposes a minimum jail term of 10 years and a fine of one million rupees for a person found guilty of depriving a woman of inheriting her lawful share in movable or immovable property.
The amended section 498C of clause 3 states that whoever compels or arranges or facilitates the marriage of a woman with the Holy Quran shall be punished with imprisonment of at least three years and also pay a fine of 500,000 rupees.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2011.