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Pata women yet to benefit from new laws

THE previous government had introduced three laws for safeguarding the rights of women. These laws were aimed at checking the practice of honour killing and inhuman customs of swara and vani, allowing bail to women in most of the offences and amending the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance so as to stop its misuse.

While the women in rest of the country could avail the benefits provided under these laws, the women in Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (Pata) have still been deprived of these benefits as these laws have not been extended there under the constitution.

Legal circles here dealing with such cases claim that they have been facing problems in dealing with cases of honour killing, fornication and swara etc due to non-implementation of the three laws in Pata. Sometime, they claim, they hoodwink the courts when presiding officers are not aware of this fact, whereas mostly the courts decline to provide them any relief due to non-extension of laws.

Pata enjoys special status under Article 247 of the Constitution. These areas consist of seven districts — Swat, Shangla, Chitral, Buner, Malakand, Upper and Lower Dir — and tribal areas of Mansehra and Kohistan. The said article provides that no Act of Parliament or a provincial assembly shall apply to Pata unless the governor, with prior approval of the president, directs so. Normally, the governor issues a notification for extending any law to the Pata.

The previous government first introduced the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (Act No 1 of 2005) which is commonly known as the Honour Killing law. The bill was first passed by National Assembly on Oct 26, 2004 and then by the Senate on Dec 7, 2004. It appeared in the official gazette on Jan 11, 2005.

Through that law various amendments were made in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code with the objective to check those provisions which supported the offenders in honour-related offences. For the first time a definition of the honour-related crimes has been incorporated in the PPC, which states: “Offence committed in the name or on the pretext of honour means an offence committed in the name or on the pretext of karo kari, siyah kari or similar other customs or practices.”

That law also provided that no officer below the rank of the superintendent of police shall investigate the offence against a person charged under the Blasphemy law. Similarly, it provided that no officer below the rank of a superintendent of police shall investigate an offence wherein a woman is charged under the Zina Ordinance nor such an offender shall be arrested without permission of the court.

Similarly, the inhuman practice of giving females to rival groups in marriages for settling blood feuds was also declared a penal offence punishable up to ten years rigorous imprisonment. Various cases were reported during last few years when persons involved in giving girl-child in swara to rivals and jirga members were allowed bail for the reason that the law was not extended to Pata despite more than three years have passed.

The second law is the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Ordinance, 2006, dealing with granting of bail to female offenders. That ordinance was first promulgated on July 8, 2006, and subsequently re-promulgated in March 2007 and July 2007. That ordinance provided that women are entitled to be released on bail except in offences related to terrorism, financial corruption and murder.

While women in rest of the country could apply for bail on the sole ground of the said ordinance, the females charged in any offence in Pata could not avail these benefits. Similarly, The Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006, commonly known as the women Protection Act was given assent by the President of Pakistan on Nov 30, 2006, after it was passed by National Assembly and Senate. Despite the passage of more than one-and-a-half year the law has yet to be extended to Pata.

Through that law drastic changes were made in the controversial Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, and adultery and fornication are turned into non-cognisable offences. Now under the law a complaint has to be filed before the concerned court which has to decide to initiate proceedings in the case if sufficient evidence is available.
Source: Dawn

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