Civil society: Parliament urged to abolish Shariat Court

Human rights organisations object to verdict on Women Protection Act.

Saleha Rauf December 30, 2010

LAHORE: The parliament was asked on Wednesday to abolish the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) “which creates a parallel justice system.”

Voicing concern over the FSC’s verdict of December 22, in which it declared four clauses of the Women Protection Act 2006 unconstitutional, the alliance of several civil society organisations held that there was no need for the FSC since the Supreme Court and High Courts were addressing all outstanding matters of importance.

During a press conference at the Lahore Press Club, Shahtaj Qizalbash, said, “The Shariat Court encroached upon the jurisdiction of the superior courts as well as the powers of the parliament through its December 22 verdict. The law was passed after consideration by the parliament and is not unconstitutional.”

The JAC is an umbrella organisations of almost 30 NGOs, all of whom were represented at the press conference. Shah Taj Qazalbash, Khawar Mumtaz, Hina Jilani, Madeeha Gauhar and Mohammad Tehseen were among the speakers. Other prominent participants were Mehnaz Rafi, Tanveer Jahan, Bushra Khaliq and Naseem Zahra.

Madeeha Gauhar called for the immediate abolition of the parallel judicial system, “The Supreme Court can hear all sorts of issue so there is no need for any parallel judicial system.” She also asked, “Whose Sharia will the court follow? There are so many sects,” she asked. The Supreme Court should immediately abolish the Federal Shariat Court to avoid further deterioration in the state of human rights in the country,” Gauhar added.

According to the FSC verdict, Sections 11, 25, 28 and 29 of the Protection of Women Act 2006 are ultra vires of Article 203D of the constitution since they override the Hudood Ordinance of 1979. The JAC objected to the “Reintroduction of Zina and Qazaf, which the Women Protection Act had removed. It has also blurred the distinction between rape and zina that the act established, the JAC said.

Muhammad Tehseen said that the Shariat Court was “insecure”. “Its keenness to gain greater power and influence through such means is unjust.”

The JAC urged the federal and provincial governments to take notice of the court’s decision, which they said was a threat to women’s rights. Hina Jilani warned of a Supreme Court appeal, “If the government does not take notice or play its role to save the society from the consequences of this decision, we will be forced to the Supreme Court.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2010.

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