MONDAY’S decision by the Council of Islamic Ideology not to have DNA testing in rape cases as primary evidence, as suggested by some, would have come as a disappointment to those who had expectations to the contrary. Giving the council’s final opinion on the matter, CII chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani told newsmen on Thursday that even though DNA testing was a useful and modern technique, a court could only take it into account along with other material as “supporting evidence”. Evidently, the CII’s reformist camp led by Maulana Tahir Ashrafi failed to convince the majority in the CII that the results of a DNA test could be the sole basis for convicting a person accused of rape. The CII chief also rejected the Women’s Protection Act of 2006 and defended the blasphemy law by saying it should not be amended.
The deliberations among the CII’s learned scholars are useful up to the point that they highlight the pros and cons of a given issue and enlighten the public and the lawmakers from an Islamic perspective. But it should be remembered that the CII is only a recommendatory body, and its suggestions are not supposed to inhibit parliament’s lawmaking rights. The Zia-era Hudood and blasphemy laws are controversial because they were imposed by decree, and not legislated by a sovereign parliament. The CII does not accommodate the views of all segments of Pakistani society, and in the presence of a parliament composed of democratically elected representatives, the council is, in fact, of very little use. Where an issue requires consensus, it is the prerogative of parliament to debate and decide. Which means the National Assembly and the Senate have the right to legislate on the DNA issue even if they want to consider the CII’s stance. More important, all major religious parties are there in parliament, and, thus, there is no reason why one of the National Assembly’s special committees cannot discuss the issue and make recommendations to parliament.