July 7th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Opposition senators have clarified that the federal government itself chose to seek review of the domestic violence bill by the Council of Islamic Ideology and the decision was not linked to the amendments proposed by the Upper House, adding that the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights had unanimously cleared all clauses in the Lower House bill.
On July 5, Babar Awan, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs, advised Asad Qaiser, Speaker of National Assembly, to refer the bill on domestic violence for a review by the Council of Islamic Ideology. Under the Constitution, the CII can advise the legislature on whether or not a certain law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam.
Speaking in the Spotlight programme with Munizae Jahangir, Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said the Senate did not reject the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2021, but the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights had recommended some amendments to correct several errors in the bill as passed by the National Assembly.
“Federal Minister For Human Rights Shireen Mazari acceded to the amendments proposed in the bill by the Standing Committee on the floor of the Senate (on June 18), “ Tarar said, adding that the senate committee approved all clauses in the National Assembly bill.
“The federal government has decided to send the domestic violence bill to the CII by its own choice and not because of any issue in the Senate,” Tarar said in response to a claim by Riaz Fatyana, Member of National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaf party, that the bill became a shuttlecock between both houses of the Parliament.
Earlier, MNA Riaz Fatyana, chairman of NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice, a co-panelist on the Spotlight show, said the domestic bill was rejected by a single vote in the Senate. The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights recommended some amendments in the bill which was referred back to the lower house. “The domestic bill should have been passed but unfortunately it became a shuttlecock between the National Assembly and the Senate,” Fatyana said.
Asked whether the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 2019 passed by the Senate has been referred to the CII, Fatyana said the Senate bill has not been sent to the CII but it was stuck midway between the Houses of Parliament. “Personally, I feel that the child marriage bill should be passed as I believe that the age of marriage should not be less than 18 years,” he said.
Tarar said two opposition senators had objected to the bill on the Senate floor but their objections were put down by the rest of the Senate members. He was of the opinion that a broad consensus should be reached prior to legislation on important issues. “Domestic violence is a reality in Pakistan and there should be legislation to stem it,” he said.
Asked about the CII’s role in legislation, Rubina Khalid, Senator from Pakistan People Party, said the council is a constitutional advisory body but the Parliament is supreme in matters of legislation. “If the government has decided to send the domestic violence to the CII, it is incumbent upon the government to pursue the bill,” she said. “The government should ensure that the CII hold deliberations and does not let them sit on it for years,” she added.
The PPP senator said the CII should expeditiously send the bill back to the National Assembly so that Parliament can legislate on domestic violence.
Letter to NA Speaker over domestic violence bill
In his letter to the NA Speaker, Babar Awan said the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2021, initially passed by the National Assembly in April, was referred back to the Lower House after the Senate suggested amendments to the proposed law.
The PM’s advisor said concerns have been raised regarding various definitions and other contents of the bill. “Most importantly it is being highlighted that the bill contravenes the Islamic [injunctions] and way of life as enshrined in the responsibility of the state in Article 31 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” reads the letter.
“Article 230 (1) (b) empowers the Islamic Council (CII) to advise a House, a Provincial Assembly, a President or a Governor on any question referred to it as to whether proposed law is or is not repugnant to the [injunctions] of Islam,” the letter states.
Babar Awan stated that the CII can make recommendations to parliament regarding ways and means to encourage Muslims in Pakistan to lead their lives, individually and collectively, in accordance with the principles of Islam.
“In view of the provisions of the Constitution, of Pakistan and the concerns of various segments of society, it is advisable that the Bill as passed by the National Assembly and amended by Senate of Pakistan may be referred to the Islamic Ideology Council in accordance with aforementioned provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Babar Awan wrote in his letter to the Speaker.