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Judicial CP - April 1997

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News of the Nation, Lahore, 3 April 1997

NA okays death for gangrape culprits

By Sadaqat Jan

ISLAMABAD -- The National Assembly on Wednesday passed a Bill to amend the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, under which persons involved in gangrape could be prosecuted to death.

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani of JUI, and Naveed Qamar of PPP, opposed the Bill saying it is being hastily introduced and could not be debated adequately. Maulana Moinuddin Lakhwi, from the Treasury benches, expressed reservations over the manner and speed in which, an Islamic law was dispensed with. He said members should have been informed well before the House could pass the Bill.

Syed Zafar Ali Shah, Parliamentary Secretary for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, introduced and gave a first reading of the Bill before the House. MNA Ijaz Shafi, Nawab Akbar Bugti and Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind also took part in discussion over the Bill. Interestingly woman MPs did not participate in the debate. The Hudood Ordinance has been a hot issue with women rights activists saying it targets women.

"Objections are being raised without understanding the bill or its spirit, it has been in exercise since 1979 and is not against Islam or Shariah", Zafar Ali Shah said explaining various features of the amendment.

The Bill, he said, aims at safeguarding women from the heinous crime of rape -- a crime which, he added, had been rising at alarming pace. "The government is giving top priority to ensuring the dignity of women", Zafar said.

The aim behind the Bill is to enhance the punishment for perpetrators of gangrape. Section 10(3) of the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979, provides for punishment of imprisonment from four to twenty-five years and also whipping 30 stripes for the offence of zina bil jabr liable to ta'azir.

"For sometime past, there has been a tendency towards gangrapes. There is, therefore, a need for creating a deterrence for such heinous offence through prescribing death penalty for this offence", said Zafar Ali Shah.

The Bill called the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) (Amendment) Act, 1997, inserts a new sub-section, 4, of section 10 of the Ordinance promulgated in 1979." (4) When zina-bil-jabr liable to ta'azir is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death", reads the new amendment.

Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, opposing the Bill, termed the government's move a hasty step and said the Treasury should have introduced it for a detailed discussion in the House before its passage. He discussed the Bill with reference to Islamic injunctions and Shariah saying the Council for Islamic Ideology should also have been consulted in this regard. "We are here to uphold rather than to dishonour Islamic principles and the Constitution", Maulana Sherani added.

Naveed Qamar, taking part in the discussion, said the government is asserting its majority brutally and the Opposition is being bulldozed. The manner in which the Bill was being passed will set a bad precedent. Care has not been taken in drafting the Bill and therefore it is not applicable, Qamar added.

Taking part in the discussion Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind said the law should be saved from misuse and targeting political opponents.

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