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Evolving consensus: Govt, opposition nearing deal on pro-women bills

Evolving consensus: Govt, opposition nearing deal on pro-women bills

By Riazul Haq

ISLAMABAD: The government and opposition parties are likely to evolve consensus on two pro-women bills and plan to present them in parliament after the budget debate.

Progress on the two important bills on violence against women and honour killings has been stalled since the joint parliamentary session in April after Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl objected to some provisions in both of these bills.

An agreement between the government and opposition was reached in a meeting held last week, sources told The Express Tribune.

The JUI-F had opposed the anti-honour killings bill, saying the law should not be specific for women alone but should also include children, transgender, etc. The government succumbed to the JUI-F’s pressure and there was no headway till June 3.

The Cabinet Committee on Law Reforms, which includes Law Minister Zahid Hamid, PM’s Special Assistant on Law and Justice Barrister Zafarullah Khan, met JUI-F lawmaker Naeema Kishwar along with other members from PPP to discuss the issue.

Barrister Zafarullah said the prime minister had advised him to resolve the issue amicably with the JUI-F leaders and that was why they were going ahead steadily. “Better a bit late than having a deadlock in a hurry,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune. The committee would soon meet JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman for the final go-ahead on the bill on honour killings, he added.

The statement gives credence to the concerns voiced by several parties the government has given in to the JUI-F.

All parities in the joint parliament session had agreed to pass the bill except the JUI-F, which forced the government to backtrack. JUI-F Senator Maulana Ataur Rehman had also suggested the bills be referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology. While one bill pertains to preventing killings of women in the name of honour, the other seeks to make DNA tests a compulsory part of evidence in rape cases.

PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar along with other lawmakers believes that murders in the name of honour have largely gone unpunished because in most cases both the accused and victim have the same guardian, who pardons the accused.

The honour killings bill was passed unanimously not only by the Senate Committee on Interior headed by JUI Senator Talha Mahmood, but also by the Senate in March 2014 in the presence of lawmakers from the PML-N, JUI, ANP, MQM and PML-Q.

The anti-rape bill, apart from making DNA test compulsory, also seeks to protect the identity of the survivor and enhances punishment for rape in a police station or in custody of law enforcing agencies. Both the bills were initially moved by PPP Senator Sughra Imam as private member bills in the Senate. The proposals lapsed after 90 days as the lower house of parliament did not pass them in the mandatory period and had to be referred to a joint sitting.

Barrister Zafarullah said in the next meeting, Imam and Babar would be invited for a debate on the bills. “After evolving consensus, we plan to table the government bill after incorporating all the recommendations and provisions of the opposition parties,” the PM’s aide added.

JUI-F’s Kishwar also said both sides had reached an agreement on the anti-rape bill while the parties would soon evolve consensus on the other bill as well.

Express Tribune

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