PA adopts resolution on underage marriage

An underage girl who escaped forced marriage. — AFP/file


LAHORE: The Punjab Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted three resolutions, including the one demanding effective legislation to prevent underage marriages.

Two resolutions were withdrawn – one already under consideration by the treasury and the other requiring revision.

A resolution, presented by Azma Zahid Bukhari, demanding effective legislation to prevent underage marriages drew a strong reaction as Jamaat-i-Islami’s Dr Waseem Akhtar initially opposed the resolution.

Two more resolutions adopted unanimously

Ms Bukhari said marriage was a serious social contract that could not be solemnised between boys and girls who are yet to become adolescents. She also said the broiler chicken was also causing serious problems in girls’ adolescence. She said that this serious issue should not be confused while misconstruing Islam. Asserting that a girl child had a fundamental right to get education, she asked Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan to hold a voting whether any member would be willing to marry their daughters off at the age of nine years.

Dr Akhtar responded that Ms Bukhari had misunderstood his arguments and added that he had only asked for an amendment to the resolution that Islam permits girls’ marriages when they become adults.

Punjab Zakat and Ushr Minister Nadeem Malik said the government was working to reform the 1929 Act (Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929) and added that when the House would go for legislation, a comprehensive debate could be held. Later, the House unanimously adopted the resolution as Dr Akhtar also supported it.

The House also unanimously adopted a resolution tabled by Al-Haaj Muhammad Ilyas Chinioti that called for implementation of Islamic Ideological Council’s letter sent on August 29, 2013 regarding using Quranic terminology instead of English terminology like prayer, God, Prophet.

Mr Nadeem Malik responded, saying the Punjab government had already taken up this matter with the federal government and also written a letter to religious affairs ministry. Later, the House unanimously adopted the resolution.

The House also unanimously adopted Nighat Sheikh’s resolution with an amendment that the Punjab government should recommend the federal government to impose a condition of at least a five-year service in public sector hospitals after MBBS. She said women were winning about 70pc seats in medical colleges in Punjab but only 30pc of them practised medicine. Such a situation, she said, was causing shortfall of doctors in the province.

Dr Waseem Akhtar while supporting the resolution presented some facts before the House that the social setup sometimes did not allow girls to practise medicine. He said sometimes girls wanted to practise it but their in-laws did not allow. He said the government should go for legislation while considering all the ground realities and then take decisions courageously. He suggested that the government should not impose conditions on girls seeking medical education in the province.

The resolution presented by Dr Waseem Akhtar was withdrawn that called for restoring the full pension of the government employees, who had attained the age of 75 years, in the light of Supreme Court decision. Minister Mr Malik said the government was already working on this subject.

Another resolution by Shameela Aslam that called for setting up dispensaries in schools, beginning with girls schools, was also withdrawn as the minister said that it was not in the education policy to provide healthcare facilities in schools.

He, however, said the schools were being provided funds and they could purchase first aid kits and emergency medicines.

Earlier, during the question hour, Punjab Housing and Urban Development and Public Health Engineering parliamentary secretary Sajjad Haider Gujjar faced humiliation in the House as he could not answer the questions. He continued relying on chits coming from the department officials. At occasions, he had to receive a number of chits to respond a question. Various members, including Waqas Hassan Moakal and Dr Waseem Akhtar, also continued taunting Mr Gujjar that he should first collect chits from the department officials and then respond to a question in one go.

As a member asked the Speaker to put the questions in ‘pending matters’ because the parliamentary secretary was not able to respond to the questions, the Speaker admonished Gujjar and said that he should himself excused himself as he was not prepared.

Later, the Speaker adjourned the session till Wednesday (today) 10am.

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