Honour killing law tightened
ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly adopted on October 26, a bill enhancing punishment for ‘honour crimes’, including ‘karo kari’, as the combined opposition continued its noisy protests and boycotted the proceedings. The assembly was later prorogued.
The law increases punishment for crimes related to honour killing to life imprisonment or death.
The legislation fixed for the first time a minimum of 10 years jail for such murders. Earlier a murderer could have received ‘soft’ punishment for committing an honour killing.
The legislation also amended a provision in the criminal laws that had allowed a compromise between the family of the victim and the killers, barring them to do so before or during the trials.
As it was private members day in most of the business including opposition’s resolutions were dropped as ‘not moved’.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz came to the house after the opposition had left and the bill on honour killing had been passed.
For the first time in the current session, sergeants at arms were seen lined up near the protesting opposition. Observers saw it as a signal from the government to the opposition that it meant business and will no more tolerate noisy protests on the floor of the house.
Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain warned of stern action against members found violating the assembly’s rules and obstructing its smooth functioning.
“Do not force me to take action which I have been avoiding for the last two years,” he said. Later, he asked MMA’s Hafiz Hussain Ahmed to refrain from turning his back on the chair as it was in violation of rules.
The opposition raised slogans but left quietly when the speaker read out a written order that “holding demonstrations, showing placards, flags etc chanting slogans and encircling speaker’s podium in the house were against the rules and would be dealt with severely in future”.
In another significant move, the speaker, who had deferred a privilege motion sought to be moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Dr. Sher Afghan Niazi against “the objectionable attitude of the opposition”, allowed two similar motions. The motions described the opposition’s activities on the floor of the house as breach of privilege of the entire house and sought suitable action against trouble-makers.
The two privilege motions were referred to the house standing committee on privileges on the request of the minister of parliamentary affairs and endorsed by the law minister.
One of the motions was sought to be moved by minority member M.P. Bhandara, who named Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of the MMA and Naheed Khan and Raja Parvez Ashraf of the PPP Parliamentarians as leading trouble-makers.
In his statement on the motions, Dr. Sher Afgan said the opposition had demonstrated enough of ‘uncalled for hue and cry’ and it was high time that a suitable response was given from the treasury side. After the opposition left the house, Mr. Afgan moved for suspension of rules and take up the passage of the bill seeking amendment to the Pakistan penal code to enhance punishment and changes in the blasphemy and Hudood laws.
The bill was passed without any hurdle or ‘no’ vote and the government had taken steps to maintain quorum.
The bill aims to reduce abuse of blasphemy laws and the amendment requires senior police officers investigate blasphemy allegations for substance before criminal charges are filed.
Under the original law, anyone accused of blasphemy was immediately arrested and charged, after which an investigation was carried out, often by a junior officer.
The speaker allowed the law minister to propose some changes in the language of amendments passed in Monday’s proceedings on the bill.
The house sent a package of 15 amendment proposed by M.P. Bhandara in the “rules of procedure and conduct of the business in the National Assembly 1992” to the special house committee on rules of business.
The minority member sought the house to observe punctuality, ensure conclusion of all private members business before the end of the session, form a committee to prioritise private business and regulate house business, fix the house business advisory committee’s tenure at one year, and deprive any member or group of members of pay and allowances if he indulged in rowdyism during session and disobeyed the chair’s orders.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Women Development, Ms. Neelofar Bakhtiar, thanked the house for passing the bill on honour killing and praised the ruling PML president, the prime minister and the ministry of law for their role in its preparation and passage.
She said that as many as 913 women had been killed in ‘honour- related crimes’ in the country during the year 2003 with 638 cases of honour crime committed in Sindh, 463 in Punjab, 120 in the NWFP and 40 in Balochistan.
MNA Gian Chand, on a point of order, complained that the house standing committee on minorities had not elected its chairman in two years which was hampering business relating to the 2.5 to 3 million minority population of the country.
Kunwar Khalid Yunus of the MQM lauded the president’s order for the repair of Sukkur Barrage and asked the government to initiate rehabilitation work on the Rohri and Guddu Barrages in consultation with the British engineering company which had constructed these barrages.
Earlier, on a point of order raised by Riaz Pirzada, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao informed the house that gatherings of sectarian organisations were banned because of acts of terrorism but there was no ban on religious gatherings.
Mr Pirzada had pointed out that the ‘Chehlum’ of Hazrat Ali was approaching and there was a ban on religious gatherings in the country which ought to be relaxed on such occasion.
Liaqat Baloch of the MMA was not allowed to speak on a point of order when he invited the attention of the chair to the completion of one year in jail of PML (Nawaz) acting president Javed Hashmi.
The Speaker said a ruling had already been given in this matter and the member could not raise it on a point of order.
Through a call attention notice, MQM’s Farooq Sattar, Kunwar Khalid Yunus, Haider Abbas Rizvi, Khalid Wahab and Mrs Afsar Begum spoke against a proposed decision to charge separate electricity rates from each province on thermal, nuclear and hydro-electrical power.
The movers were told that the decision was taken by the National Electricity Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).
They said Nepra was a regulatory authority which should not be allowed to formulate policies of the electricity distribution.
They said that Karachi was producing electricity by furnace oil which was costly while the amount of electricity produced through nuclear power was too little to meet the needs of Karachi.
He said the overall contribution of Karachi must be taken into account while treating it at par with other parts of the country where hydro-power generation was possible.