ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member has submitted a resolution to the Senate seeking increase in women’s representation in the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

The resolution has been moved by Sehar Kamran at a time when the Senate Committee on Human Rights and a number of her party colleagues in the Senate had already called for disbanding the CII, for its alleged anti-women stance and its focus only on women and marriage issues.

“This House recommends that the women should be given representation in the CII according to their population in Pakistan and the relevant law/rules should be amended for this purpose, if required,” says the text of the resolution moved by the PPP senator.

The resolution is on the agenda of the Senate’s session on Monday.

The CII, a constitutional body, advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, in particular to the Quran and Sunnah. Presently, there is only one seat reserved for women in the CII, which comprises minimum of eight and maximum 20 members.

According to Article 228(2) of the Constitution, the CII “consists of such members, being not less than eight and not more than 20 as the president may appoint from amongst persons having knowledge of the principles and philosophy of Islam as enunciated in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, or understanding of the economic, political, legal or administrative problems of Pakistan”.

At present, the CII headed by Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) comprises 10 members, including Samia Raheel Qazi, the daughter of former Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed, as a lone woman member.

In June, the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights while holding the CII responsible for the rise in incidents of violence against women, had recommended disbanding the body and urged the government to ban the use of Qisas and Diyat laws in honour-killing cases.

The senate committee’s recommendations had come after the CII in a proposed women’s protection bill ruled that ‘lightly beating’ one’s wife is permissible in Islam.

Previously, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar had also demanded disbandment of the CII and had asked the government to withdraw Rs100 million funds allocated for the body for fiscal year 2016-17 and give these funds to the National Commission for the Status of Women.

Challenging the constitutional and legal status of the CII, Mr Babar had stated that the task assigned to the CII under the 1973 Constitution had been completed and submission of annual reports was no longer a constitutional requirement.

The PPP senator said the CII in its report had itself admitted that after the submission of its final report in December 1996, it was no longer constitutionally required to continue submitting reports to parliament. However, he said, the council unilaterally decided to keep submitting annual reports.

Meanwhile, another PPP senator and the chairman of the Senate finance committee, Salim Mandviwala, has also moved an amendment to the Senate rules seeking to end the provision of the casting vote by the committees’ chairpersons, in case he or she is a mover of the matter under consideration of the committee.

The senator has suggested amendment to Rule 182 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Senate, 2012.

The proposed amendment says: “Provided that the chairman of a committee or the person presiding in his absence shall not cast his vote in the event of the equality of votes in case he is a mover of a matter under consideration of the committee.”

Mr Mandviwala has moved the amendment in the backdrop of the recent decision of Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to send back a bill to the finance committee when he sought permission to table a report of the committee on the bill which had been introduced by him as a private member.

After opposition to his bill by the government members in the committee and a tie in the voting process, Mr Mandviwala declared the bill as passed while using his casting vote.

The Senate chairman, however, referred the bill back to the committee, stating that the PPP senator should not have used the power of casting vote on moral grounds.

When contacted, Mr Mandviwala said that he wanted to change the rule as in Pakistan, the parliamentarians function in accordance with rules and laws, and not on moral grounds.

The PPP senator said that he had used the casting vote on the matter in accordance with the rules and the Senate chairman had also agreed to his viewpoint. He said that he had accepted the chair’s decision, but decided to move amendment to the rules to avoid any such situation in future.

Published in Dawn November 21st, 2016