Senate body rejects bill declaring women’s inheritance fundamental right

Published November 4, 2021
A file view of a Senate session. — APP
A file view of a Senate session. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Wednesday rejected two constitution amendment bills, including the one seeking to declare women’s inheritance a fundamental right, with a majority vote.

The committee, however, approved two other constitution amendment bills, including the one seeking to authorise advisers to the chief ministers to participate in the proceedings of the provincial assemblies.

The committee which met under Syed Ali Zafar of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), was to take up a heavy legislative agenda that included 11 private member’s constitution amendment bills, but it had to defer most of them due to the absence of the movers.

Through the bills, mostly tabled by the opposition members, the movers had suggested some crucial changes to various provisions of the Constitution related to the promulgation of ordinance, increase in the powers of the Senate, ensuring meaningful participation of the provinces in the affairs of the federation and fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.

The committee members were found divided in their opinion while discussing the bill moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Saadia Abbasi seeking to include the right of inheritance for women as the fundamental right under the Constitution.

Through the bill, Ms Abbasi had suggested insertion of a new Article 24A in the Constitution and the proposed amendment read “no women shall be deprived of her share from the inheritance in Pakistan”.

While arguing in favour of her bill, Ms Abbasi said Islam had prescribed well-defined shares for the male and female descendants of a deceased person, according to an official handout issued by the Senate Secretariat.

She said Islamic law entitled women to inherit immovable and movable properties, yet the practice had been to deny women their share in inheritance. She termed it an unjustified practice that had become a norm.

She said the purpose of her bill was to acknowledge, declare and assert the right of women in inheritance as a fundamental right in consonance with principles of Islam. She further said if the said amendment was approved it would enable women to directly approach the Supreme Court on matters related to inheritance.

Railways Minister Azam Swati was of the view that relevant laws already existed and there was no need for listing the matter of inheritance as fundamental right.

On the other hand, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, while supporting the bill, said this amendment reinforced the state’s commitment towards protecting women’s right to inheritance.

However, another PPP senator and former law minister Farooq Naek also endorsed the minister’s viewpoint, saying they needed to work towards better implementation of the existing laws. Later, the chairman put the bill before the members for a vote and it was rejected with a majority.

The committee rejected another constitution amendment bill, also introduced by Ms Abbasi, regarding citizens’ right to bail and also declaring it a fundamental right in the Constitution.

The committee, however, approved the bill moved by Ms Abbasi regarding identification, preservation, conservation, restoration and access for all to national heritage sites of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2021

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