PPP refuses to take up bill on Hindu widows' remarriage

KARACHI: The joint opposition once against protested on Tuesday inside the Sindh Assembly when the government opposed taking up an amendment to the Hindu Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeking to allow Hindu widows to remarry of their own will.

The private bill on the agenda was moved by Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) Parliamentary Leader Nand Kumar.  It was a private members day where all MPAs could present their bills and resolutions. However, almost all scheduled items on the agenda for the day were set aside as the government decided to pass an out-of-turn resolution that demanded reduction in the fee for national identity cards.

As the proceedings started with speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in chair, the question answer session began where hardly three to four questions were answered.

An uproar started in the House when, ignoring the agenda, the government attempted to move an out-of-turn resolution.

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“The Hindu Marriage Bill is on the agenda. The government claims to be a champion for the rights of minorities. This is an important bill. Please first take it up rather than brining out-of-turn items in the House,” Kumar said.

Opposition members belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) joined the PML-F for taking up the Hindu Marriage Bill and finishing the agenda first.

Addressing the protesting opposition MPAs, the speaker said he himself favoured taking up the Hindu Marriage Bill first. However, he added that he would go with the wishes of the majority of the House.

Defending the government, Parliamentary Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said there were some flaws in the bill, due to which it should not be taken up.  Law Minister Ziaul Hasan Lanjar maintained that the assembly had already passed the law, however, Kumar wanted to make an amendment to it in haste, which was not possible.

Defending his proposed amendment, Kumar said there had been a custom in the Hindu community, according to which widows or divorced women were not allowed to remarry. “If a teenage girl becomes widow, she has to spend her life alone. This is a curse. We have to get rid of this custom through this bill,” he said.

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Despite the opposition’s insistence and protest, the government did not take up the bill.

Speaking to the media outside the assembly, Kumar said the Hindu Marriage Bill was not the only bill related to minorities to which the government was indifferent to. “The government is also undecided about the bill against forced conversions, which was rejected by the governor,” he remarked, adding that despite many reminders, the Pakistan Peoples Party ministers did not show willingness to reconsider the forced conversion bill in the House. “This shows that the PPP has failed to resolve minorities’ issues,” he said.

Other items on the agenda that could not be taken up included the Sindh Prohibition of Corporal Punishment (Amendment) Bill, Sindh Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, Sindh Surrender of Illict Arms Bill, Sindh Prohibition of Tobacco and Protection of Non-Smokers Health Bill, Sindh Regularisation of Commercial Transport Companies Bill, Sindh Women  Protection Authority Bill and Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Bill.

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Five private resolutions moved by different MPAs on public interest issues, including cleaning of drains before the monsoon season and the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl in Manghopir were also not taken up.

At the outset, a PTI MPA also moved an adjournment motion regarding the shortage of water in Karachi. However, it was dismissed after the government opposed it, calling it against the rules.

The session was adjourned till Friday.