Senate passes honour-killing bill
ISLAMABAD – The government pushed a bill against honour killings through the Senate on December 7, amid an opposition walkout but promised to consider opposition amendments to improve the law in the future.
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, amending the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code and prescribes up to the death penalty for honour-killings, was passed by the National Assembly in October. Now, it only needs a formal presidential assent to become law.
Several members from both the opposition and treasury benches pointed to certain flaws and deficiencies in the bill and wanted the draft to be re-examined by the upper house committee on law and justice.
But the government went ahead with the adoption of the bill as passed by the National Assembly after Democratic Alliance leader Raza Rabbani said his group planned to move a private bill on the issue. But before the bill was put to voice vote for passage, Mr Rabbani led the walkout by all members of the alliance along with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal to protest against what he called an incomplete bill and the government’s refusal to accommodate opposition’s amendments.
Five amendments moved by MMA senators were rejected while Mr Rabbani said earlier he was not moving but placing on the table of the house amendments proposed by the People’s Party Parliamentarians.
Minister of State for Law, Justice and Human Rights Chaudhry Shahid Akram Bhinder, who piloted the bill in the Senate, said there was no need to refer the bill to a standing committee or to amend it now because it had already been deliberated in detail for two months by the standing committee concerned of the National Assembly.
“But we are not saying no further amendments cannot be made,” he added while winding up an exhaustive general debate on the bill that he said was aimed at protecting women from practices such as ‘karo-kari’ in Sindh and ‘siah-kari’ in Balochistan.
Mr Sajjad, who represents the prime minister in the Senate, said the bill had a symbolic as well as substantive importance and answered an issue of vital concern. Referring to various flaws mentioned by the senators, he said these points should be considered by the Senate standing committee on law and justice in the future.
“We will make every effort to improve this bill,” he said. But a veteran senator of the Pakistan Muslim League, Chaudhry Mohammad Anwar Bhinder, who also saw ambiguities in several clauses of the bill, said the committee could consider a bill and not mere amendments.
He said these ambiguities should have been addressed by the Law Division while drafting the bill and called for making good laws that could stand the test of time.
“We strongly oppose and reject this bill as insufficient,” Mr Raza Rabbani said while criticizing the law’s provisions about compound ability, mandatory minimum punishments and its failure to make the state as ‘wali’ who could grant pardon for a killing.
He accused the government of failing to keep a promise to bring a consensus law that it made in response to a comprehensive private PPP bill tabled in the National Assembly. Others who attacked the bill as deficient included Sardar Mohammad Latif Khosa and Farhatullah Babar of the PPP and Prof Mohammad Ibrahim Khan of the MMA.
Some PML women senators, including Mrs Tanvir Khalid and Fauzia Fakhruzzaman, joined voices with the opposition to call for sending the bill to a standing committee for improvement but the government was not prepared to delay the matter.
Mr Khosa said if “absurdities” of the bill were not removed, it could meet the fate of the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2002 that was struck down by the Lahore High Court on December .
Mr Farhatullah Babar said the bill touched upon three most important laws – dealing with the honour killings, the Hudood Ordinance relating to the offence of zina (adultery), and blasphemy – but the government proceeded to make cursory amendments in a hurry without giving any thought to the views of opposition parties, NGOs, women organisations, members of the civil society and recommendations of two women’s commissions against the Hudood Ordinances.
He said the bill did not address two serious shortcomings in the existing laws on murder due to which offenders in karo-kari cases could walk away without facing punishment.
First was the right of relatives to waive ‘qisas’ as contained in Section 309 of the PPC and the second was the provision of ‘sulh badl’ in Section 310 of the PPC under which the right to ‘qisas’ is made compound able.
Section 306 of the PPC, he said, was another big loophole in the existing law due to which certain categories of offenders could get away without any punishment. The house was adjourned until 4.15 p.m. on December 8.