The Punjab Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday calling for effective legislation to put an end to underage marriages.
The resolution was moved by Azma Zahid Bukhari.
Three of the five resolutions presented during Tuesday’s session were passed.
MPA Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar initially opposed the resolution, saying all aspects of an issue should be thought through before calling for legislation. “We cannot ignore Islamic teachings and local traditions in this regard,” he said. “Given the current practices, it will be difficult to enforce such a law. When children come of age, under Islamic law, they can be married,” Dr Akhtar said.
He criticised the media for lobbying for such a law. “There should be no vague resolutions on the issue,” he said.
Defending her resolution, Bukhari said that Pakistan had a high mortality rate during childbirth. “When young girls, incapable of the mental and physical responsibility, are married their lives and future are at risk. I ask Dr Akhtar, will he marry his daughter at the age of nine?” she asked.
Bukhari said marriage was a contract and it was necessary for the parties entering the contract to be able to understand the responsibility. “Our religion and our Prophet (peace be upon him) have taught us to respect women and take care of them,” she said.
There was disorder in the House for a while as several women lawmakers wanted to support the resolution.
Mian Muhammad Rafiq said it was necessary to revise and amend the laws in view of contemporary needs.
Minister for Zakat and Ushr Malik Nadeem Kamran said that the government was willing to work on the legislation. He welcomed the resolution. He said Dr Akhtar’s input would be taken into account before any legislation in this regard. Following this assurance, Dr Akhtar withdrew his opposition to the resolution which was unanimously adopted by the House.
Later, speaking to the media, Bukhari said that she was disappointed with the opposition. “I am happy that a milestone has been achieved. Our war in this regard will continue till the bill on underage marriages is passed,” she said.
Another resolution called for obtaining an undertaking from medical students that they would work in government hospitals for at least five years on the completion of their professional degrees.
The resolution was moved by Nighat Sheikh. She said that around 70 per cent of students securing admission in medical colleges on open merit were girls, out of which only about 30 per cent practiced.
Kamran said that the resolution should be amended so as to request the federal government to ensure its implementation. He said that the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) worked under the federal ambit. The amended resolution was passed.Muhammad Ilyas Chinioti’s resolution on implementing modifications in English terminology used for Islamic traditions and principles was also passed by the House. Resolutions moved by Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar and Shamila Aslam were withdrawn.
During the question hour, lawmakers expressed reservations over Parliamentary Secretary for Housing, Urban Development and Public Health Engineering Sajjad Haider Gujjar’s failure to respond to their questions.
Both treasury and opposition benches criticised the lack of preparedness on the secretary’s part.
“The secretary should come prepared and respond to our questions in a satisfactory manner,” said Dr Akhtar said. Vickas Hassan Mokal also expressed similar reservations.
Adjournment motions on 25,000 vacant positions of security guards in 63,000 government schools in the province and the gaps in the arrangements for evaluation of matriculation and intermediate examinations were kept pending till next week.
The session will resume at 10am on Wednesday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2014.