In light of the Hindu community struggling to get their marriages registered due to chronic delays in the passage of an already proposed bill pending with the parliament, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government has planned to introduce a new marriage registration bill for Hindus, the largest religious minority in Pakistan.
Hindu legislators in the parliament have been working tirelessly on various options to put in place a mechanism to register their marriages, since the government came into power. The proposed bill, to be discussed in a cabinet meeting, will provide an opportunity to ease the problems facing the community presently.
The government’s move to introduce the new law comes at a time when it was unable to break the deadlock among the leaders of the community, over the ‘divorce clause’ in the present Hindu Marriage Registration Bill.
Adviser to the prime minister on human rights Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that the proposed bill, which will likely be presented to the parliament soon, deals with the registration of Hindu marriages. “As the Hindu community fails to develop a consensus on various contentious clauses in the Hindu Marriage Registration Bill, we have decided to introduce a new one,” Khokar told The Express Tribune. “I also discussed the proposed bill with Premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who also gave his input on the matter,” he added.
Various clauses have proved contentious since the bill was drafted by the then minorities affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti in 2008. Interestingly, the proposed bill that is still pending with the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice has yet to be passed into law. Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s Member of the National Assembly (MNA) Kishan Chand Parwani moved it to the parliament in October 2011. This proposed bill was a “ditto copy” of the Indian Hindu Marriage Registration Bill. “If we [Hindus] want the passage of the marriage registration bill, then we will have to stand united to bury differences over ‘conservative’ clauses,” Parwani said, admitting that leaders of the community were not on the same page.
In what could be a landmark moment for the minority Hindu community of Pakistan, MNA Dr Araish Kumar claimed that “Hindus will get Computerised National Identity Cards if the bill gets passed.” He added that Pakistani Hindus often faced difficulties when travelling abroad due to the unavailability of a marriage certificate.
Regarding the controversial clauses of the bill on which the leaders are divided, Kumar told The Express Tribune that “some say the divorce clause should be included, while others are adamant it should not be added to the proposed new bill.” Clause 13 of the existing 16-page bill states that any Hindu couple can divorce his/her spouse at any time and in any court. However, the PPP’s new bill, if passed, will not include this clause.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2012.