4th November 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice has rejected a proposed constitutional amendment bill for the inclusion women’s right to inheritance as a fundamental right in the Constitution.
On Wednesday, the standing committee considered the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2021 (Insertion of Article 24A) introduced by Senator Saadia Abbasi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the Senate Sitting held on the 12th of July 2021. The bill seeks to insert a new Article 24 A in the Constitution regarding the women’s right to inheritance.
“In the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, after Article 24, the following new Article shall be inserted, namely:
24A. Right of Women to inheritance: No Women shall be deprived of her share in inheritance in Pakistan,” reads Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2021 (Insertion of Article 24A).
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Senator Abbasi said women in the country are denied inheritance on basis of social and family pressure. “The purpose of the Constitutional Amendment bill was to ensure women get their inheritance as per Islamic injunctions,” she said.
The PML-N senator said parents and brothers deliberately deny inheritance share to sisters and daughters. “Most of such cases are regrettably occurring in the educated segment of the population,” she added.
However, the standing committee rejected Abbasi’s Constitutional Amendment bill by a majority vote. According to Senator Azam Khan Swati from Pakistan Tehrik Insaf, relevant laws already exist to protect the right of women to inheritance in the country. “There is no need to list the matter of inheritance as a fundamental right in the Constitution,” he added.
Senator Syed Ali Zafar, chairman of the standing committee, commented that the said amendment is “constitutionally difficult”. “It is a great concept but existing laws should be improved and further strengthened in order to make sure that women are not denied inheritance,” Senator Zafar said.
Senator Farooq H Naek from the Pakistan Peoples Party also opposed the amendment bill saying that related laws already exist in this regard. “We need to work towards better implementation of existing laws,” Senator Naek told committee members.
Interestingly, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar differed with his fellow party senator and supported the bill. “The amendment bill reinforces the State’s commitment towards protecting women’s right to inheritance,” Khokhar said.
Senators Ali Zafar, Naseebullah Bazai, Farooq H Naek, Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, Walid Iqbal, and Samina Mumtaz Zehri voted against the proposed amendment bill while Musadik Masood Malik, Saadia Abbasi and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar voted in its support.
Senator Sadia Abbasi lamented that egalitarian legislators like Farooq Naek, Waleed Iqbal and Ali Zafar opposed the amendment bill that would have enshrined women right to inheritance in the Constitution. She said the amendment carried no financial cost to the State. “The amendment would have built moral pressure on citizens as it would become part of fundamental rights,” she explained.
Abbasi said that if the said amendment is approved it would enable women to directly approach Supreme Court of Pakistan on matters related to inheritance.
The purpose of this amendment is to acknowledge, declare, and assert the right of women in inheritance as a Fundamental Right in consonance with Principles of Islam and Article 23, and Article 24 of Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, she added.
Senator Abbasi called Senator Ali Zafar’s argument that the amendment would create constitutional difficulties an excuse to reject progressive legislation for the betterment of women. The Constitution is not a set document, she said. “States around the world are broadening their constitutions to enhance scope of fundamental rights and reflect ground realities and needs of their citizens,” she said.
Article 24 of the Constitution pertains to the protection of property rights of citizens and is part of the fundamental rights of the Constitution.