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A view of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. — Photo by APP

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Tuesday passed a law declaring the custom of ghag an offence punishable with up to seven years imprisonment or Rs500,000 fine or both.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Elimination of Custom of Ghag Bill 2012 was passed unanimously to eradicate the social evil called ghag. The bill was tabled by Provincial Minister for Social Welfare and Women Development Sitara Ayaz.

The law defines ghag as “A custom, usage, tradition or practice whereby a person forcibly demands or claims the hand of a woman, without her own or her parents’ or wali’s will and free consent, by making an open declaration either by words spoken or written or by visible representation or by an imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, in a locality or before public in general that the woman shall stand engaged to him or any other particular man and that no other man shall make a marriage proposal to her or marry her, threatening her parents and other relatives to refrain from giving her hand in marriage to any other person, and shall also include obstructing the marriage of such woman in any other manner pursuant to such declaration.”Ms Ayaz withdrew her amendments concerning increase in imprisonment from seven to 14 years for perpetrators of ghag when law minister Arshed Abdullah requested her to do so.

Preamble of the law states “Whereas the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan provides that the dignity of man, and subject to law, privacy of home, shall be inviolable and the state shall protect the marriage and the family”.

It further said that the Shariah gave right to women to enter into valid marriage with their free consent and the constitution of Pakistan enjoined upon the state to promote social justice and eradicate social evils.

The offence under this act will be cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.

MPA Noor Sehar withdrew her proposed amendments because those were identical to that of Ms Ayaz.

The question of Ms Sehar concerning returning of $15.7 million unutilised loan, provided by Asian Development Bank for investing in technical education sector, was approved for discussion in the house. Minister for technical education Mehmood Zaib couldn’t satisfy the mover and other MPAs who had asked supplementary questions regarding this issue.

Several movers expressed anguish over the absence of ministers concerned.

Criticizing the absent ministers, MPA Kifayatullah asked Speaker Kiramatullah Chagharmatti to publish advertisements of “missing ministers” as several ministers avoided coming to attend the assembly proceedings.

Answering the question of Ms Sehar, the labour department informed the house in a written reply that under Employment of Children Act, 1991, around 554 cases had been registered for violation of child labour in last four years.

The lawmakers criticised the labour department for poor performance, as the violation of child labour had become very common and could be seen on street level.

On this, the law minister said that the labour department had not established its setup on district level and that was why accurate monitoring of child labour was not possible. He urged the elected representatives to keep check on child labour in their respective constituencies and inform the department if they found any violation of the law.

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