KARACHI: The Hindu community in Sindh heaved a sigh of relief when the Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Hindus Marriage Act, 2016 in April of 2016, hoping that things would change for the better. But this law, the first of its kind in Pakistan, has met a fate similar to a host of other important bills – it is gathering dust. For the past year and a half, no rules have been made for the law and without it there is no mechanism for the Hindu community to register their marriages.
The bill states that marriages will only be solemnised for persons aged 18 and above and at least two witnesses need to be present for registration of the marriage certificate by the union councils, wards or other municipal authorities concerned. “All legal formalities for the certificate will be initiated within 45 days of the solemnisation,” the law states.
Jai Parkash, a member of the National Lobbying Delegation for Minorities, told The Express Tribune that they have been pushing the law minister and other officials in the Sindh government for the implementation of the law but all they get in return are lame excuses.
“Even though the law is not comprehensive – it only provides for right of marriage certification with no provisions for separation, divorce or dissolution of marriages – we desperately wait for its implementation,” he said.
According to Parkash, they have drafted a new law and handed it over to Law Minister Ziaul Hasan Lanjar but nothing has been done yet. “The National Assembly passed a law covering all aspects [of Hindu marriage], so we want to replicate the same law in Sindh,” he explained.
No effort has been made by the government to expedite the process, frame rules or implement the rules for the law since it was passed.
Pakistan Muslim League – Functional parliamentary leader Nand Kumar pointed towards the Sindh Assembly standing committee on minorities, which is supposed to take up minority laws and bring amendments in them. “For the last two years there has been no chairperson of the committee. The position is vacant since Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Poonjo Mal Bhel joined the Pakistan Peoples Party [PPP],” he lamented. “How can one expect tangible results when it comes to minorities’ issues and legislation [in such circumstances]?” he questioned, adding that he had moved a bill against forced conversion, which was unanimously passed but the fate of the bill still hangs in the balance as the government has not given its assent on it.
“The bill is still pending in the assembly secretariat. The same thing happened to the minorities’ rights commission bill passed in November, 2016,” said Kumar. He added that it was under the leadership of former PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto that the party advocated for the rights of minorities. The incumbent leadership is interested in other issues, he lamented.
Lanjar, however, said that the credit goes to the PPP-led government for always raising their voice for minorities, who are considered ‘lesser mortals’ in Pakistan. “We give them equal rights and consider them equal citizens,” he said proudly, adding that it was the PPP government that passed the Hindu marriage law because, since the creation of Pakistan, the Hindu community had been deprived of this right. “The rules are under process and will be drafted soon,” he said.
When asked about the lack of provisions for divorce in the law, he said, “There is always an option to make amendments to the Act and we will do it in consultation with our Hindus brothers.”
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Source: Tribune News | Sindh – the first to pass the law but last to implement it