- Senate body on human rights says anti-terror laws, military courts and Council of Islamic Ideplogy are threats to human rights
- Says CII’s anti-women pronouncements must not stand; says CII funding should be withdrawn and re-allocated for protection of women
- Military court are trying ordinary criminals instead of jet-black terrorists; their procedures and workings lack transparency and are open to abuse
Holding the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) responsible for the rise in incidents of violence against women, members of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday recommended disbanding the body and urged the government to ban the use of Qisas and Diyat laws in honour killing cases.
The committee also criticised the trial of ordinary farmers under anti-terrorism laws as well as military courts’ lack of transparency in their proceedings.
The committee expressed dismay that tenants of farmlands had been charged with terrorism merely for trying to hold a public meeting on the International Day of Peasants on April 17.
Farhatullah Babar said that by turning a blind eye to militants in South Punjab and torturing and trying tenants under terrorism charges had turned the National Action Plan (NAP) and the anti-terror drive of the government into a joke. The issue of military farmlands was referred to the Human Rights Committee by the Senate chairman on a motion of PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar.
The committee met in the Parliament House on Tuesday under the Chairpersonship of Senator Nasreen Jalil. The meeting was attended by Senators Mohsin Leghari, Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, Sitara Ayaz and Farhatullah Babar. Senior officers from the Ministry of Defence, Law, Justice and Human Rights, Ministry of Interior, field officers dealing with Okara farmlands and other relevant officials.
Representatives of the Anjuman Mazareen Punjab also attended the meeting of the committee and presented their point of view on the occupation of their land.
CII TANTRUMS ATTRACT CENSURE:
The CII, a constitutional body, advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, in particular to the Quran and Sunnah.
The senate committee’s recommendations come just a month after the CII in a proposed women’s protection bill ruled that ‘lightly beating’ one’s wife is permissible in Islam.
During a meeting, the committee observed that the ‘anti-women’ stance of the CII permitted violence against women and had contributed to an increase in crimes against the gender.
Committee Chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil said that the CII’s recommendations encouraged a negative attitude towards women and incited violence against them.
The body’s recommendations only added to the miseries of women instead of providing any relief to them, Jalil said, adding that CII members appeared to be unaware of legislating in a modern age.
Jalil said the CII recommendation which allowed a husband to beat his wife made no sense. She added that “not accepting DNA tests as evidence in rape cases shows the backwardness of members of the council”.
Earlier, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar had demanded the disbandment of CII and had asked for the Rs 100 million fund allocated for the body for fiscal year 2016-17 to be withdrawn.
“There is no reason for the Council of Islamic Ideology to continue its job and it should not send more reports to the Parliament for legislation,” Babar said during his speech on budget in the Senate.
“This is the council which says a husband can beat his wife,” said Babar adding that the CII also denied DNA as proof in rape cases.
He said that the council had also suggested to the people to write ‘Kalma Tayyaba’ on their homes so that culture of Jihad can be promoted.
“A council should not continue its job with so many controversies,” Babar said adding that the council has also declared minimum age for a girl’s wedding as un-Islamic.
‘MILITARY COURTS MILITATE AGAINST JUSTICE’:
Senator Farhatullah Babar demanded the appointment of observers in order to monitor military court proceedings.
Noting that the sunset clause in the constitutional amendment for trial of militants by military courts had forced political parties to consider whether to extend the timeframe or not, the committee said that military courts militated against justice and asked the political parties to carefully weigh the consequences and not give a blank check to the security agencies.
Farhatullah Babar said that the experiment of two years of military courts had raised some very disturbing questions.
‘TRY JET BLACK TERRORISTS, NOT ORDINARY RIFF-RAFF IN MILITARY COURTS’:
He lamented that while it was promised that the law was only against jet black terrorists, it was being applied on ordinary criminals. He said that now the degeneration has hit rock bottom as protesting tenants are also being tried under terrorism charges.
“We are unaware about what happens in the military courts,” Babar said adding that members of the National Commission for Human Rights should be allowed to monitor military court proceedings.
He added that people have the right to know about the crimes of the accused who are given death sentences by military courts and a press release should also be issued by a military spokesperson.
He said that announcing executions by tweets and the absence of even minimal information about the defendants, the narratives of the prosecution and defence, where and when the trial was held and the verdict are unacceptable as they carry a real danger of gross miscarriage of justice.
‘ALLOW NHCR TO OBSERVE MILITARY COURT PROCEEDINGS’:
He proposed that the representatives of the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) which was authorised under the law to become a party to court cases involving human rights violations should sit through the proceedings of military courts as rapporteurs, if nothing else.
The NCHR also briefed the committee on the kidnapping of Mir Muhammad Zehri in Balochistan and asked the authorities concerned to provide information about the incident and answer the allegations leveled by the complainant in the petition.
Yet another case considered by the committee pertained to the mysterious disappearance of a Pakistani national in the UAE over two years ago. The committee formulated a set of questions and asked the Interior Ministry to get a response from the relevant UAE authorities.
‘LAWS THAT SHOULD REALLY BE NO-BRAINERS’:
The committee asked the government to pass the Anti-Honour Killing Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014, passed unanimously by the Senate and referred to the National Assembly. The bill is now with the Joint sitting of the parliament which failed to adopt it because of lack of consensus.
Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that all the political parties in the Senate including the ruling coalition as well as the religious parties had unanimously passed the anti-honour killing bill. He said that the government was now backtracking on it in the Joint Session in the name of consensus and said that he wondered if the Panama Leaks had something to do with the change of heart.
The committee called upon the government to also pass an Anti-torture Bill in the National Assembly which was unanimously passed by the Senate over a year ago in March 2015.
The committee took notice of incidents of enforced disappearances which it said were bringing a bad name to the country and its agencies. It asked the government to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Enforced Disappearances and the directions of superior courts from time to time in order to bring the security agencies under some sort of legislation. The members also advised the government to sign the international Convention on Enforced Disappearances and asked for comprehensive briefing on it and the government reservations against signing it.
‘DON’T GIVE MORE MONEY TO CII, USE IT TO PROTECT WOMEN’:
Babar raised concerns over the increase in the annual budget of the council and demanded the government to withdraw the funds allocated for the CII.
“Money allocated for the council should be given to National Commission for the Protection of Women,” the senator had stated.
The senate committee also decided to write a letter to the Law Ministry to question the constitutional position of the council.
The committee in its recommendations urged the government to make murders in the name of ‘honour’ a non-compoundable offence and asked the government to ban the use of the Qisas and Diyat laws in honour-killing cases.
Earlier in May, CII deliberated on its proposed ‘model’ women’s protection bill, which allows a husband to ‘lightly’ beat his wife ‘if needed’ and prohibits mixing of the genders in schools, hospitals and offices.
The CII’s proposed bill claimed women will have all the rights given to them under Shariah, prohibited interaction between na-mehrams at recreational spots and offices, and banned ‘dance, music, and sculptures created in the name of art’.