By: Imran Mukhtar
ISLAMABAD – An opposition Senator yesterday called for disbanding the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) saying its controversial decisions and pronouncements have seriously usurped the rights of women.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar proposed that the CII be disbanded and Rs 100 million allocated to it in the federal budget 2016-17 should be transferred to the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW).
Taking part in the budget debate in the Senate, the PPP senator said that the CII had already submitted its final report to the parliament in 1997 and had become dangerously irrelevant. “It has no constitutional role to play and frustrated with its controversial pronouncements some people call it “medieval non-sense at public expense,” he said.
He recalled the controversial decisions and pronouncements of CII including permission to slightly beat women, the decrease in the marriage age of women and inadmissibility of DNA test as evidence in the women’s rape cases.
Babar also took exception to the allocation of 250 million rupees made for a new body — National Institute for Human Rights — being set up as parallel body to the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) under an executive order. There already exists NCHR set up under an Act of the Parliament as an independent, powerful and autonomous body, he said.
The act provides for a special fund to enable the commission perform its functions, he said adding that Rs 250 million allocated to the new body be transferred to this special fund.
On this, Chairman Raza Rabbani referred the matter to the Senate Finance Committee directing it to examine the issue of setting up a parallel human rights body for what he said this was being done to accommodate “a blue eyed boy” of the government.
Farhatullah in the debate also said that the federation had been gravely undermined by making the Economic Corridor Project controversial. He pleaded for special allocations for addressing issues in climate change, environmental degradation and population for sustainable development.
He said that he did not blame the Finance Minster for not being able to give a welfare budget. We are a security driven state where every issues is viewed from the prism of security and not welfare of the people, he said.
PPP Senator Sherry Rehman in her budget speech rejected the budget claiming it was made by the government of one province (Punjab), for the people of one province and from another century.
“The federal budget is normally a vision statement that lays out development priorities for the entire federation, but this one is an accounting exercise which fudges figures and misuses the Finance Bill to subvert the spirit of the 18th Amendment and the National Finance Award,” stated Sherry on the floor of the house.
“This government has not only used the budget and its powers to undermine the historic social contract instituted between the federation and the provinces in the PPP government, but is also actually insidious in its attempts to erode the will of the Constitution and the decisions of the NFC award by trying to remove the power of the provinces to collect sales tax in the service sector via a clause in the Finance Bill,” she elaborated.
Dr Jahenzeb Jamaldini deplored that Balochistan had been ignored in the budget.
At the end of Tuesday’s debate, Chairman Senate said that three trends have come out with regard to the federalism in the Senate budget debate. “These include that Senate should pass the PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) portion of the budget, the budget of all bodies budget related to the Federal Legislative List Part II should go to Council of Common Interest (CCI) and Senate should form its own Public Accounts Committee (PAC),” he said.
Earlier, Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf, presenting a report in the Senate, said that with the efforts of the government and unlike the precedents of previous years, all Pakistanis started their holy month of Ramazan on the same day. He hoped that efforts were being made to celebrate Eid on the same day.
He said that Peshawar based moon-sighting committee led by Moulana Shahabuddin Populzai had agreed to coordinate with the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee for sighting the moon and the announcement of Ramadan and Eid.
He said that a draft law was ready to streamline the issue of moon sighting but under the constitution, a resolution from the provincial assemblies would be needed for legislation. The chair remarked that Pakistan should not live in isolation as the whole world observed first Ramadan on Monday instead Pakistan where people started Ramazan on Tuesday.