Fiery debate in NA on honour killing: Govt agrees to discuss new bill
ISLAMABAD, March 03,2005: The government on Wednesday offered to consider a new private bill against honour killing during a fiery but confused debate in the National Assembly that saw conservatives and liberals crossing swords across party lines for the second day running.
A prolonged discussion through several points of orders revived a controversy over the interpretation of Islamic teachings that had also marked Tuesday’s proceedings when the government and religious parties joined hands to kill a ruling party member’s private bill seeking to tighten the law against honour killing.
While the government and the opposition Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal seemed largely speaking on the same plane, ruling coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement joined voice with the People’s Party Parliamentarians in demanding more safeguards for women against the banned custom of honour killing such as karo-kari.
The debate sparked speculation on whether the government encouraged the debate storm, initiated by an MMA member, to spotlight ideological differences within the opposition ranks or wipe out the embarrassment of being seen in league with religious parties while professing its commitment to President Pervez Musharraf’s concept of enlightened moderation.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi got repeated applause from the MMA benches as he and Law and Justice Minister Mohammad Wasi Zafar tried to justify the government’s refusal the previous day to allow the introduction of the bill authored by Kashmala Tariq of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.
Mr Zafar said the bill, seeking to make the offence of honour killing non-compoundable, was rejected because it had become redundant after the passage of a bill last year that declared honour killing as murder punishable with death and empowered courts to satisfy themselves about a compromise for a pardon being genuine and not under pressure.
However, PPP’s legal expert Aitzaz Ahsan, who made an absorbing speech to argue for parliament’s right to interpret Islamic teachings while making laws, said neither Ms Tariq’s bill nor another pending bill by PPP’s female members about women’s empowerment were hit by the bill already passed. He called for reopening the matter.
The law minister stuck to his guns but advised the advocates of more safeguards to bring a new bill for amending the already passed bill and said: “We are ready to consider the matter”.
“You bring that amendment and we will discuss it,” he said. Mr Ahsan, who faced repeated MMA interruptions and critical remarks during his speech, said Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned a Pakistan where democracy would be supreme and that while making laws, Islam had to be interpreted by parliament rather than an individual.
“The majority of the house will decide… otherwise we will be involved in disputes of sects and sectarianism,” he said, adding that all institutions, including military, bureaucracy and judiciary, must be subservient to parliament.
“Quranic verses have their generality and universality, but the decision about their implementation has to be taken by the house, and there is no deviation from the Quranic verses in doing that,” he said.
Mr Afgan said Pakistan was an Islamic republic rather than a secular state and its parliament was not sovereign because of a constitutional obligation not to make any law contrary to Quran and Sunnah.
But he seemed to throw cold water on the MMA benches when he said that the eighth constitutional amendment introduced by the late president Gen Ziaul Haq had ‘excluded Islam from Pakistan’ and that voting on issues of Islamic interpretations could be held in parliament.
Amidst protest shouts from the MMA and some ruling party members, MQM member Kunwar Khalid Yunus said he regretted that the ruling coalition had rejected Ms Tariq’s bill with the support of what he called conservative forces seeking to take the country to Middle Ages.
Some MMA members acknowledged their political predecessors had differed with the advocates of Pakistan but said they had accepted the country as an Islamic state after its creation.
PML-N member Khwaja Mohammad Asif created a stir when he said he had heard a pro-MMA independent member from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas seated near him, Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq, saying “we are proud to oppose Pakistan and will continue to oppose it” and making derogatory remarks about women members seeking more rights.
He said such a member had no right to sit in the house or live in the country he was determined to oppose, adding that he could “give a reply to such traders of religion…not only with my tongue but also with my hands”.
Maulana Sadiq said he loved Pakistan more than the PML-N member did and regretted if his remarks, which he did not deny, had hurt the sentiments of women or other members of the house.