For the first time since Pakistan was carved out of Indian Sub-continent as an independent sovereign Islamic state, some thing quite significant has happened recently in Pakistan. This, I construe and I believe, is the first sign of a possibility for improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations.
The thing I am referring to here is the passage of a bill in Pakistan’s Senate on 17 February 2017 (a Friday). The bill aims to regulate Hindu marriages in and within Pakistan. The passage was unanimous with no opposition, whatsoever, coming from any quarter. Even in the standing committees, the mood of all the political parties was positive. The bill fulfils the long-standing demand of the minority Hindu community living in Pakistan to have in place a regulatory act for their marriages performed in Pakistan.
The bill is named The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017 and is Hindu community’s first personal law which contains many important features such as: marriages and their registrations, separations and remarriages. The minimum age for marriage has been fixed at 18 years for both the males and the females. The bill would empower women and entitle them to get marriage certificates. The Bill would become Act or Law, after the Pakistani President affixes his signature on the bill which would come in the usual way.
Now, whether this Hindu Marriage Law would protect the rights of Hindu men marrying Muslim girls or vice versa, would be known in due course of time only after seeing how the Law works in practice. In my view, the utility of the Law would be restricted to a Hindu member marrying another Hindu. Amendments are unavoidable.
Important thing to note is an attitudinal change that appears to have taken place if one is to go by the utterance of a Senator who is reported to have said: “This was unfair, not only against the principles of Islam but also a human right violation, that we have not been able to formulate a personal family law for the Hindus of Pakistan.”
By Dr. Sachidanand Das