KARACHI, June 7: Participants in a roundtable meeting organised by civil society groups on Friday understood that there was no need of institutions such as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which ‘does nothing but hinders other institutions — and state at large — in their working on progressive path’.
“We have to throw a spanner in the works of the CII, which has largely been used as a boon by the rulers to entice the religion-based political parties,” said Anis Haroon, who represented Women Action Forum, which co-hosted the meeting with the Aurat Foundation at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
In the meeting, experts from legal and medical fields had been invited to cast light on the CII recent statement declaring the DNA evidence as supporting evidence and not the primary proof in a rape case. A former CII member, Dr Mohsin Muzaffar Naqvi, was also there to speak on the matters he tackled as an active scholar until recently.
The meeting was attended by various civil rights groups, activists, local politicians and educationists.
When a brief resolution was tabled at the meeting asking the participants if they wanted the CII remained a constitutional body, most of the participants opposed it demanding that it should be abolished in the ‘larger interest of a progressive and tolerant society’.
Barrister Zain Shaikh, who was invited as a legal expert and Dr Naqvi, however, said the CII should remain a constitutional body with improved scholarly shape or, they said, religious matters without its existence could stir more controversies and predicaments.
“The participants have unanimously demanded abolishment of the CII,” said Uzma Noorani, who moderated the meeting. She made it clear that the experts’ difference of opinion fell in the ambit of guests who had been invited to talk about the complications relating to the issue.
Ms Haroon said the composition of the CII had been changing in different regimes at the convenience of the rulers and political environment and its chair and memberships had been used for political gains.
“Right now the CII’s office is virtually working as an office of the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman,” she said.
She said the organisations such as the CII, instead of creating harmony in the society, antagonised women and religious minorities and instigated sectarianism.
She added that religion-based parties had got delayed the sexual harassment bill in the senate, which denied it to become a law.
“Fortunately, after the 18th Constitutional Amendment that matter came to the province and this law has been passed at least in Sindh,” she said.
Referring to the Mukhtaran Mai rape case, she said the Supreme Court, while disposing of the case, said there was no DNA tests confirming the rape.
She said in a rape case of a 13-year-old girl in Rawalpindi against the Punjab government, the Supreme Court laid down procedures, which directed for DNA testing, early registration of FIR etc.
“The CII recommendation is against the very order of the Supreme Court,” she said.
Dr Rubina Hasan said the first 12 hours after a rape were very important for investigation of the case. She said a victim should come to a hospital for DNA instead of a police station so that her DNA samples could be taken in time to bring the perpetrators to the book.
“The time is very important. The rape victim should not wash her body or clothes before coming to us. She should be brought to hospital within 12 hours or not beyond 48 hours. It gets difficult for us if a victim is brought to us after 48 hours,” she said.
She said DNA testing was the best justice one could impart to a victim – and even a suspect.
“DNA is very important and a 100 per cent reliable method to bring about quick justice. It supports both victims and the accused as well. It is the best way to provide justice,” she said.
Dr Naqvi said the CII had been established in 1971 as an advisory body. He explained that the council’s composition had been changing from time to time and one set of individuals composing the body could reverse a decision taken by its predecessors.
He said the council’s recommendations were sent to the parliament, which could accept or reject them. He said the council preferred the directions implicitly given in Holy Quran or Hadith over manmade laws or technology.
‘CII acts as filter’
Barrister Shaikh said the CII was to comprise a minimum of eight or not more than 20 members. He said the council should not be abolished, as it was a filter to tackle the religious matters, which, otherwise could generate more controversy.
“Steps should be taken to improve its scholarly strength instead of calling for its abolition,” he said.
Some participants criticised the clerics who ‘exploit the religion for their own benefit’ and added that in certain parts of the country ‘religious zealots punish women without complying the Islamic injunctions’.