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NA passes bill to punish acid throwers

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Putting aside a divisive turmoil on the previous day over Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad by US commandos, the National Assembly united on a women’s protection cause on Tuesday, unanimously passing a private bill to punish acid throwers with up to life imprisonment.

However, a cleric from Balochistan, in a show of indiscipline, tried to reignite the row during a congenial private members’ day and succeeded in saying a prayer for the dead Al Qaeda chief without the chair’s permission, winning at least three adherents.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2011, originally called the Acid Control and Acid Crime Bill, 2010, was introduced on the last private members’ day on May 26 before the house was adjourned for a nine-day recess four days later, was passed without debate as recommended by an 18-member Standing Committee on Women Development. However, several female lawmakers across party lines later praised the draft, which now needs adoption by the Senate to become law.

The bill, piloted by PML-Q’s Marvi Memon, though originally sponsored by some other members, seeks amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), proposing a maximum of life imprisonment and a minimum of 14 years’ imprisonment and Rs1 million in fine for causing “hurt by corrosive substance”.

“Whoever with the intention or knowingly causes or attempts to cause hurt by means of a corrosive substance or any substance which is deleterious to human body when it is swallowed, inhaled, (has) come in contact or (is) received into human body or otherwise shall be said to cause hurt by corrosive substance,” says a new section 336A inserted in the PPC.

“Corrosive substance”, according to an attached explanation, “means a substance which may destroy, cause hurt, deface or dismember any organ of the human body and includes every kind of acid, poison, explosive or explosive substance, heating substance, noxious thing, arsenic or any other chemical which has a corroding effect and which is deleterious to human body.”

Another section 336B says: “Whoever causes hurt by corrosive substance shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description which shall not be less than fourteen years and a minimum five of one million rupees.”

It was much afterwards when Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi had allowed members to air problems of their constituencies through points of order that independent lawmaker Maulvi Asmaullah of a Balochistan-based breakaway faction of JUI asked for chair’s permission to say a prayer as a mark of condolence for Osama.

And without waiting for permission, the cleric started saying the prayer, which was not interrupted by the chair, though ignored by the rest of the house except three members who raised their hands in prayer: Maulana Ataullah and Laiq Mohammad Khan of opposition JUI and PML-Q’s newly inducted minister of state for production Shahjehan Yousuf.
It was too late for the chair to remind the cleric about what he did without permission, which seemed a show of concern for the man who Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a speech in the house on Monday “launched waves after waves of terrorist attacks against innocent Pakistanis” and whose elimination he described as “indeed justice done”.

The debate on the US commando operation against Bin Laden at his Abbottabad hideout early on May 2, whose opening day on Monday was marked by slogan-chanting and a walkout by the opposition PML-N, will resume on Wednesday, when the house will meet at 5pm.

Source: Dawn