One step forward in Pakistan, but more is needed

Nasir Khan, February 18, 2017
The passing of the Hindu marriage bill was an important step in Pakistan, which is a mutti-religious country.
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If common sense prevails in the ruling strata of Pakistan, they should take the next bold step and make Pakistan a Secular Democratic country, where there is no state religion, but all offices of the state are open to all irrespective of the religious identities of the citizens of Pakistan. It means a believer of any faith – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Parsi, Bahai, Ahmadi, etc. — can become the president and prime minister of Pakistan.
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To start with, I would love to see a Hindu, a Sikh or a Christian being elected to the highest offices of the country. That can only happen when Pakistan becomes a secular democratic country where religion of its citizens is a private matter for the people and has nothing to do with the running of the democratic system of governement.
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At the same time, I am deeply conscious of the poltical reality that the vicious effects of Islamist anti-humanism, morbid fanaticism and anti-social garbage preached through toxic clerics make the prospects of the rise of secular democracy in Pakistan a distant dream. But we have to speak up and say what is in the interest of all.
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Pakistan Senate passes landmark Hindu marriage bill

The much-awaited landmark bill to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan is set to become a law with the Senate unanimously passing it.

The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, which is the first elaborate Hindu community’s personal law, was adopted by the Senate on Friday.

The bill had already been approved by the lower house or the National Assembly on September 26, 2015, and it now just needs signature of the President, a mere formality, to become a law.

Dawn News reported that the bill is widely acceptable to Hindus living in Pakistan because it relates to marriage, registration of marriage, separation and remarriage, with the minimum age of marriage set at 18 years for both boys and girls.

The bill will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage.

It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Law.

The bill presented in the Senate by Law Minister Zahid Hamid faced no opposition or objection. It was mainly due to the sympathetic views expressed by the lawmakers of all political parties in the relevant standing committees.

The bill was approved by the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights on January 2 with an overwhelming majority.

However, Senator Mufti Abdul Sattar of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl had opposed the bill, claiming that the Constitution was vast enough to cater to such needs.

While approving the bill, committee chairperson Senator Nasreen Jalil of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had announced, “This was unfair —— not only against the principles of Islam but also a human rights violation —— that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a leading Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz, had been working relentlessly for three years to have a Hindu marriage law in the country.

“Such laws will help discourage forced conversions and streamline the Hindu community after the marriage of individuals,” he said, expressing gratitude to the parliamentarians.

Mr. Vankwani also said it was difficult for married Hindu women to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion.

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