ISLAMABAD, Dec 28: A private bill seeking life term for permanent disfigurement of a person's face or any other part of body by acts like acid-throwing received wide support across party lines in the National Assembly on Tuesday but it was put off for a week to add more meat to it.
The draft, moved by ruling PPP's retired justice Fakhr-un-Nisa Khokher and co-sponsored by opposition PML-Q's Marvi Memon, seemed set for an easy passage because of support from all parliamentary groups for the two proposed amendments in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) motivated to counter mainly acid attacks on women.
But over protests from Ms Khokher, Deputy Speaker Faisal Karim Kundi deferred the Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill until the next private members' day on January 4, citing absence of Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Babar Awan from the house and some members' desire to move amendments for what they called further strengthening the new law.
A statement of objects and reasons accompanying the bill, which has already been approved by an 18-member house standing committee on law, justice and parliamentary affairs, said the existing provisions of law regarding disfigurement of a person “do not cover the increasing crime of throwing acid for disfigurement of face or any other body part” and that it was “imperative to bring this crime under the provisions of law, with its proper definition and punishment”.
A new section (335A) sought to be inserted in the PPC defines the offence of “disfigurement or defacing” as an act committed “with the intention to disfigure or deface another person by throwing acid or by means of fire, or using arsenic or any other weapon”.
“Disfigurement” in this proviso, it says, would mean “disfigurement of face or any part of the organ of the body” by such attacks “which impairs or injures, or deforms the beauty, symmetry or appearance of a person”.
While retaining the existing Islamic punishment of 'qisas' or imprisonment of up to 10 years as 'ta'zir' for “itlaf-i-salahiyyat-i-udw” (impairing an organ's ability), the bill provides that “whoever causes permanent disfigurement of face or any part of the organ of the body through using acid, fire, or arsenic, or any other weapon shall be punished with imprisonment for life and a fine of Rs500,000”. DEBATE SOUGHT ON DRONE ATTACKS:
On an initiative from former interior minister and PPP-S chief Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, several opposition members called for an all-party conference and a special parliament debate on increasing US drone strikes against suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas like North Waziristan.
PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab supported the call for a parliamentary debate, describing both drone attacks and suicide attacks by militants were inter-linked matters, but said there was no need for convening an all-party conference, which Mr Sherpao said should consider “revisiting” the present government policy of reacting strongly against any violation by Nato helicopters from Afghanistan but opposing drone attacks merely by words.
But the house sitting, after a three-day recess, went off unusually smoothly without a mention of the government-allied MQM's overnight decision to withdraw its two ministers from Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's cabinet without leaving the ruling alliance or of a war of words between the PML-N and MQM after PML-N leader blamed the MQM for violence in Karachi in a speech in Azad Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad on Sunday.
However, there were some spirited speeches from both sides of the house on points or order about other issues, including allegedly secret operations of American agencies in Islamabad and perceived injustices done to Balochistan by successive governments before the house was adjourned until 4pm on Wednesday.