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Women take charge of bills in National Assembly

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD:As if disregarding the dark Taliban clouds in the northwest, women members of the National Assembly on Tuesday took charge of private bills and a debate on Aids, about which the government said it would bring a new law to protect patients from the stigma of the deadly disease.

All the four bills introduced in the house seeking amendments in the existing laws on what was a private members’ day were piloted by women – three of them about rights of women now under attack from militant Taliban’s controversial interpretation of Islam at gunpoint, and one sought to punish police for refusing to register a first information report and conducting dishonest investigation.

The government did not object to the introduction of the bills, which were subsequently referred to concerned standing committees of the house for their reports and refining the drafts.

PPP’s former high court judge Fakhar-un-Nisa Khokhar introduced two bills – the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill seeking to enable the family courts to act as mediation courts to try for a compromise between the parties before the trial, and the Muslim Family Laws (Amendment) Bill to enable a divorced woman to claim maintenance expenses for a breast-feeding infant from her past husband or his heirs for two years.

The Factories (Amendment) Bill of Mrs Khalida Mansoor seeks to amend the Factories Act of 1934 to benefit working women, who also have to look after their children and domestic affairs, to provide that their “period of work … during a working day in a factory” could be relaxed by one hour at the start and one hour before close.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, jointly authored by three female members – Mrs Shamshad Sattar Bachani, Mrs Shakeela Khanum Rashid, Mrs Belum Hasnain – and one male member – Mr Tariq Mahmood Bajwa – seeks a minimum of five years’ imprisonment or a minimum fine of Rs100,000, or both, for failure to register first information report of an alleged offence and carrying out a dishonest investigation by a competent police or other official.

It also provides for half of the fine to be paid to the aggrieved person, whose right to claim damages in a civil court will not be limited.

HIV/AIDS SHAME: Minister of State for Health Mohammad Afzal Sindhu, responding to a “matter of sufficient public importance” raised by 11 members from the ruling coalition and opposition members, said the government intended to bring a law to parliament to protect HIV/Aids patients from the shame of the incurable disease.

But he did not indicate the time to bring the new law, which he said would take cognizance of anybody reproaching a patient of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and Aids (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), caused by blood transfusion from or sexual activity with affected people.

Most of only women speakers on a subject usually shunned in the Pakistani society called for public awareness campaigns by the government about the dangers of the disease about which very few people talk and more effective arrangements to prevent its spread.

Mr Sindhu said publicity and preventive measures like blood-screening were already being carried out but assured the house that they would be fortified further in light of house members’ suggestions. .

He said the government would attend a May 16-17 international conference on HIV/Aids in Geneva and would use the forum to ask European countries to provide it information about Pakistani nationals deported for carrying the dangerous virus.

“How problems will be solved if we don’t talk about them?” asked PPP member Mrs Yasmeen Rehman who called for the collection of credible data about the extent of the disease in the country and preventive work on a “war-footing” before the situation could get out of hand as in neighbouring India.

PML-N’s Tahira Aurangzeb called for making HIV/Aids awareness a part of educational syllabuses while her party colleague Shireen Arshad Khan suggested counselling at different levels of the society and health insurance as she said was the practice in Schengen Agreement countries of Europe.

Nighat Paveen Mir of the same party wanted an awareness campaign in light of Islamic teachings of piety while her colleagues Mrs Nisar Tanveer and Begum Nuzhat Sadiq called for a more effective use of the media.

PML-N’s Haji Pervaiz Khan got a lesson about what it could mean when one talked ill of MQM chief Altaf Hussain before his followers when the member from Rawalpindi was shouted down by Karachi-based party’s members after he, while speaking on a point of order, said their leader should now return home from his long self-exile in Britain and “stop speaking against people and Pakistan from there”.

Members from both the opposition and government benches called for making price control authorities more effective while speaking on a resolution while a debate on the shortage of urea fertilizer was still in progress when the house was adjourned until 4pm on Wednesday.
Source: Dawn
Date:4/22/2009

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