A new bill proposed by a parliamentary panel, if passed, will enable members of the Hindu community to register their marriages, The Express Tribune has learnt. Currently, there is no mechanism in place to enable registration of this kind.
If enacted, the law will also authorise representatives of the minority community to form a council which will disallow the registration of marriage of a female under 18 years of age and a male under 21 years of age.
The three-member panel constituted by President Asif Ali Zardari has recommended “a quick passage of the Hindu Marriage Registration Bill”. The president also directed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Maula Bux Chandio, who is heading the commission, to look into other minority-related issues as well as probe the case of an alleged migration of Hindu families from Pakistan to India.
“We will hand over this draft to (Religious Affairs Minister) Khurshid Shah on Monday (October 8) and hope it will be tabled in the National Assembly soon,” said MNA Lal Chand, who is also a member of the panel. Hindu legislators have been working tirelessly on various options to put in place a marriage registration mechanism, Chand added.
In its 13-page report, the panel requested President Zardari for the go-ahead to table the bill in parliament along with another bill against forced conversions. The law and justice ministry is to start working on a rough draft of the Enforced Conversion Bill, 2012, Chand told The Express Tribune. Hopefully, this will be finalised by end of this month, he added
The MNA also urged representatives to bury their differences over certain clauses in the marriage registration bill which are considered contentious. “Hindus will have to stand united if they want to get this bill passed by parliament soon,” Chand said.
Lawmakers representing the Hindu minority will also hold a meeting with the ministers for religious affairs, law and justice and national harmony as well as the adviser to the prime minister on minority affairs in order to discuss and finalise details on the two proposed bills.
State Minister for Interfaith Harmony Akram Masih Gill said he has already given his input on the marriage registration draft bill, adding, “We are strong supporters of this bill.”
Gill also expressed hope that a bill regarding an increase in minorities’ seats in parliament as well as provincial assemblies will be tabled in parliament next week. “It will be a democratic victory for minorities, who have been waiting for decades to see such a huge increase in (their quota),” he told The Express Tribune.
The Hindu Marriage Registration Bill has been pending with the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice since 2011. The delay was the result of a stalemate in the Hindu community preventing a consensus on various clauses ever since the bill was drafted in 2008, by the then minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti.
In order to amend these clauses, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Human Rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokar has also discussed the proposed bill with Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2012.