Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Friday asked the leadership of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) to comment on the reported marriage of a 64-year-old lawmaker of the party with a minor girl.
Earlier this month, news of the marriage of a 14-year-old girl with a man about four times her age had gone viral on social media.
The bridegroom was named as JUI-F's Maulana Salahuddin Ayubi, who had won the NA-263 Qilla Abdullah seat in the 2018 general elections on a ticket of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Dawn reported.
Speaking in the National Assembly, Chaudhry said the "very disturbing" news of the underage girl's marriage had been reported in Indian media today. He added that the reported marriage of a JUI MNA with a young girl, whose age he stated as 13, was a violation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.
He said the government wasn't investigating the matter but the JUI-F leadership "should only come and deny the incident before the house because Pakistan's parliament and we are being ridiculed over this across the world".
"My heart is saddened that how we can allow such an act and expose our children like this," he added.
In a tweet later, Chaudhry said he had "raised issue of underage marriage by a JUI MNA".
"I hope all sane voices in NA will take notice of this absurd act by a member of National Assembly and will join voice to seek explanation," he wrote.
Parliamentary Secretary for Law and Justice Maleeka Bokhari of the PTI endorsed Chaudhry's comments on "this illegal act & criminal offence by JUI-F MNA who has violated the Child Marriage Restraint Act by marrying a 13-year-old child".
Bokhari said there was a "deafening silence" on the issue from the "so-called champions of democracy who stand by JUI-F head Fazlur Rehman!"
Earlier this month, a local organisation in Chitral had requested police to conduct an inquiry into the reported marriage of the underage girl of grade 9 with an MNA from Balochistan.
In an application, Anjuman Dawat-o-Azeemat had contended that the news of the girl’s marriage with an elderly person had gone viral on social media, angering people.
Police were requested to conduct an inquiry into whether the girl had attained the marriageable age, and if not, take action against all those responsible under the Prevention of Child Marriage Act.
When contacted, Chitral police station SHO Inspector Sajjad Ahmed had confirmed receiving the application from the organisation and said a proper inquiry would be started as the girl’s father was presently not in Chitral.
He said the girl was a student of Government Girls High School, Jughoor, where her date of birth had been recorded as October 28, 2006, which showed that she had not attained the age of marriage.
He said earlier this month on the complaint of the organisation, police had reached the girl’s home, but her father had denied the girl’s marriage and had even provided an affidavit to this effect.
'Re-grouping of terrorists'
Also on Friday, lawmakers in the National Assembly unanimously condemned the gruesome killing of four women vocational trainers in a terrorist attack in North Waziristan on February 22 as the opposition members asked the government to take notice of the “re-grouping” of terrorists in the country’s tribal areas.
Speaking on points of order during the Question Hour, opposition members expressed their concerns over what they called a deteriorating law and order situation in the tribal areas merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and called upon the federal government and Prime Minister Imran Khan to take the responsible officials and persons in the KP government to task.
The issue was raised by JUI-F MNA from Bannu Zahid Durrani who also regretted that media had not given due coverage to the incident.
“The people of my constituency are asking the question: 'Are we not Pakistanis?'” said Durrani. “Had such an incident taken place in Punjab or Sindh or any other district, the media would have given it coverage. The National Assembly would have held a debate on it.”
“For how long will we continue to collect dead bodies?” he asked, demanding compensation under Shuhda Package for the slain women trainers.
Independent MNA from North Waziristan Mohsin Dawar called for a comprehensive debate on the issue, claiming that terrorists were once again organising themselves and regrouping in the tribal areas. He said only a day before the killing of the women in a village near Mirali, 10 people, including government officials and a lawyer, had been abducted from the same locality.
“There is a need for a thorough debate before the terrorists once again start striking all over the country,” he said.
Murtaza Javed Abbasi of the PML-N endorsed the viewpoint of his opposition colleagues and recalled that in the recent by-elections in the area, candidates could not even go there for campaigning.
Zille Huma of the ruling PTI while speaking about the killing of the women workers said there was no justification for such a brutal act committed by insane people and “beasts”. She said the women were educators and visiting the area for training local women.
Shahnaz Baloch of the BNP-Mengal in a hard-hitting speech deplored the miseries faced by women in Pakistan in general and Balochistan and tribal areas in particular.
“What was the fault of these women? Kill all the women in the country to settle the matter once for all. Is this Pakistan? Is this Shariah? Is this the state of Madina about which the prime minister used to talk?” she asked.
Speaker Asad Qaiser referred the matter to the house committee on interior.
PTI MNA Saifur Rehman from Karachi highlighted the issue of an alleged attack on Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh and asked the speaker to summon the inspector general of police and prison over the incident. He accused the Sindh government of victimising PTI workers in the province.
PPP’s Raja Pervez Ashraf was of the view that the PTI MNA should not raise a provincial subject in the National Assembly. He said the PTI was raising a hue and cry over the treatment with the opposition leader in the province but “can anyone tell where is the opposition leader of the National Assembly now? Where is the former opposition leader Khurshid Shah now?”
He advised the PTI member to raise the issue in the Sindh Assembly.
The speaker ordered a count after PPP’s Agha Rafiullah pointed out lack of quorum, and subsequently adjourned the sitting till Monday afternoon.