Ordinance to amend Hudood laws this month -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Ordinance to amend Hudood laws this month

LAHORE, July 10 2006: A presidential ordinance will be promulgated this month repealing the controversial articles of the Hudood Ordinance, sources told Daily Times on July 09. The Law Ministry is currently drafting the ordinance, which would seek to provide relief to women unjustly imprisoned under Hudood laws, the sources said. President Gen Pervez Musharraf and then the federal cabinet would approve the draft, after which it would be presented in the National Assembly to become an act, the sources said.

The ordinance would make the appearance of four witnesses necessary for the registration of a case under the Hudood Ordinance. It would also bar families from registering complaints under the Hudood Ordinance against couples who marry of their own will. Married couple, in case of any complaint, would have to present their nikah namas (marriage certificates) in the police station concerned.

Under the new ordinance, the complainant and the accused would have to undergo DNA tests in cases of rape or adultery. Currently, such cases are presented in court on the basis of medico-legal examinations. Rape and adultery cases would also not be registered without four witnesses. DNA testing facilities are currently available only at the Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) of the Punjab University, and the government has decided to open a DNA lab at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Lahore. The sources said the CEMB charges Rs 10,000 for DNA tests and this was too expensive for most accused in Hudood cases.

Mehnaz Rafi, a PML vice president and member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Women’s Affairs, told Daily Times that there were many ambiguities in the Hudood laws and many women were in jail because of these. Ms Rafi said the government had now allowed for the immediate bail of women accused in Hudood cases. She said couples who marry of their own choice should not suffer in courts under Hudood cases. Many women jailed for adultery after being raped or for marrying of their own choice were giving birth in jail, which was a violation of human rights, she said.

She said that the government wants to keep women accused under Hudood laws out of prisons and that was why it was considering amendments to the laws. The government has recently tasked the Council of Islamic Ideology with drawing up amendments to the Hudood Ordinance, which was promulgated by Gen Ziaul Haq in 1979. Human rights groups say the laws discriminate against women and three national commissions over the last 20 years have each recommended the repeal or amendment of the ordinance.
Source: Daily Times