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ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel, on Tuesday, expressed reservations over Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav-specific proposed legislation and sought a detailed briefing from the Law Minister in the next meeting, besides rejecting another "sect-specific" proposed legislation aimed at amending the Muslim Family Laws for settling divorce related matters.

The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which met with Senator Ali Zafar in the chair, though deferred discussion on the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill, 2021, due to absence of the Minister for Law Farogh Naseem, and sought him to brief the panel in its meeting, yet there was broader consensus in the committee that Constitution does not allow person-specific laws.

"To me, this law [the International Court of Justice (Review and Reconsideration) Bill, 2021] is person specific. The question arises whether we can pass a law which is person-specific?" observed Barrister Ali Zafar, chair of the committee. Farooq H Naek pointed out that there was no provision to allow review in criminal law.

"Can we bring a new law, if there is no provision in the statute?" Naek questioned. He also pointed out that the Supreme Court does not entertain the judgments of the military courts.

Jadhav, the arrested Indian spy, has been sentenced to death by a military tribunal, whereas the International Court of Justice (ICJ), in its July 17, 2019 judgement has called for a review and reconsideration in the military court's decision.

Mian Raza Rabbani pointed out that the government by introducing Jadhav-specific bill provide the ground of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, whereas, Article 36 only deals with consular access. In his observations, the chair of the committee stated: "Obviously, we [Pakistan] have international obligations, but we should also have to look thoroughly into all the observations of the committee members."

However, further discussion on the bill was deferred till the next meeting of the committee after getting a detailed briefing from the Law Minister. The committee, after a thorough discussion on a proposed amendment in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, aimed at allowing followers of Shia sect to settle their matters of divorce according to their interpretation, rejected the proposed legislation terming this a "sect-specific" law, with the observation that it may open up a new "Pandora's box".

The proposed bill was rejected on the ground that it would promote sectarianism and that the other sects within Islam would also bring similar bills for settling matters of divorce according to interpretations by their own schools of thought.

Committee members, including Farooq H Naek, Raza Rabbani, Musadiq Malik, Azam Swati, Kamran Murtaza, and the chairman himself, opined that since sectarian issues could flare up in the country, a bill that displays sectarian overtones could be misinterpreted. They further stated that accommodating provisions of various factions would be a daunting task as well.

The committee observed that settled issues of Muslim Family laws as well as decisions to legislate for Muslims on the whole and not for sects or sub sects separately, should not be stirred under the current circumstances. After detailed discussion, the committee unanimously decided that in the national interest and for religious as well as sectarian and intra-sectarian harmony in the country, both the amendments bills in the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 may not be passed by the Senate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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