Spirit of the law – 23 May 2022

WOMEN`S right to inheritance is often galling for their male relatives in our patriarchal society. However, with cultural practices favouring them in every sphere, men can and do find a way around this `hurdle` without much difficulty. One tactic is to take advantage of many women`s lack of exposure to the world of business and their dependence on male relatives to interpret its fine print for them. Many a woman has thus been duped into signing away her property, only to realise too late that her trust has been betrayed. The Supreme Court has in a recent verdict addressed this loophole by ruling that to deprive an illiterate, purdah-observing woman of her property without professional or independent advice provided to her, or without making her understand the consequences of her action, was not sustainable in law. Consent, therefore, is not worth the paper it is written on until it is given freely with full awareness of its implications, which is how it should be. The case in question involved a gift deed of properties inherited by two sisters, both illiterate and purdah-observing, prepared fraudulently on blank paper through misrepresentation by their brother.

Legal protections do not amount to much without the will to apply them in the true spirit. The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Act, 2011 added Section 498A to the Penal Code to criminalise the act of depriving women of their right to inheritance. Anyone found guilty of this crime is liable to imprisonment of between five to 10 years and/ or a Rslm fine. The apex court`s recent verdict takes into account the lived reality of many women who sign contracts involving their property. Further, it puts the onus of proof where it belongs on the individual who enters into a transaction with the purdah-observing or illiterate woman; it is for him `to establish that the said document was executed by her after mindfulness of the transaction`. However, there are other ways that women are deprived of their property.

These involve the full spectrum of family and communal pressures, underpinned by archaic notions of honour, to surrender what is theirs, or should rightfully be theirs, in favour of male relatives.

Resistance can invite physical violence, even a risk to life. For this to change, society needs to undergo a change in mindset whereby women are not mere appendages to the men in their family, but complete individuals in their own right.

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SC on defections – 23 May 2022

Holding that the vote of any member cast contrary to any direction issued by a parliamentary party in terms of para (b) of clause (1) of Article 63A of the constitution – regarding the election of the prime minister or the chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money mill or a constitutional (amendment) bill – cannot be counted and must be disregarded, the SC statedly interpreted Article 63A of the constitution “in a purposive and robust manner, which accords with its spirit and intent”.

For some, such a judicial approach in the interpretation of Article 63A amounts to rewriting or reading into the constitution what is not provided in its text.

A well-intentioned judicial endeavour to eradicate parliamentary defections from the body politic, the verdict changes the intent and spirit of Article 63A. In case any member votes against a direction issued by a parliamentary party in terms of para (b) of clause (1) of Article 63A of the constitution, the party head, after providing him/her with an opportunity to show cause for defection, may declare in writing that the member has defected from the political party.

The party head may then forward a copy of this declaration to the presiding officer of the House and the CEC for the latter to decide the same within thirty days. Upon confirmation of the declaration by the Election Commission, the member shall cease to be a member of the House. Any party aggrieved by the decision of the Election Commission may, within 30 days, lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court which shall decide the matter within ninety days from the date of the filing of the appeal.

The SC emphasizes that, regardless of whether the party head, subsequent to the vote, proceeds to take, or refrains from taking, an action that would result in a declaration of defection, the vote of that member “cannot be counted and must be disregarded”. This interpretation makes the explicit procedure and purpose of Article 63A redundant. Moreover, it nullifies the powers of the party head, the Election Commission, and even the Supreme Court to declare, reject or confirm the declaration of the defection of a member.

Considering the history of horse-trading and political engineering in Pakistan, Article 63A was added to the constitution by the passage of the 18th Amendment in 2010. It aimed to strike a balance between the rights of individual parliamentarians and regime stability. A three-layered mechanism for the declaration of defection and de-seating was provided to ensure constructive debate and freedom of expression, the sine qua non of parliamentary government.

Particularly in a country where political parties are generally run like personal fiefdoms and dynasties, the freedom of expression of individual parliamentarians is very important. It is an established custom of parliamentary practice that a parliamentarian is only bound by his/her conscience. Thus, the verdict is not in keeping with parliamentary democracy and its norms and could end up stifling dissent or encouraging unintended consequences, for example, encouraging independent non-party parliamentarians.

The SC argues that: “Article 63A must be interpreted in a broad manner, consistent with fundamental rights. If there is any conflict between the fundamental rights of the collectivity ie, political party and an individual member thereof it is the former that must prevail”. Yet, in my opinion, the right of individual members – freedom of speech (Article 19) – cannot be eclipsed by the right of a political party: freedom of association (Article 17). Both categories of rights are equal and should be interpreted in a balanced manner. In the absence of freedom of speech, freedom of association does not make any sense for citizens or parliamentarians.

A broad interpretation of Article 63A does not require the denial of freedom of expression for parliamentarians. Para (b) of clause (1) of Article 63A should not necessarily mean the nullification of the vote of a member against the direction of a party head. Every defection is not a case of horse-trading. There could be genuine dissent and disapproval with one’s political leadership for failing to deliver to the people. The right to dissent is an essential feature of a functioning democracy.

Arguably, a broad interpretation of Article 63A in the presidential reference takes away parliamentarians’ right to dissent and weakens democracy. It demolishes the conceptual basis of the right to liberty, freedom of speech etc, and disturbs the balance provided under Article 63A between the individual right of a member and the right of political parties.

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.

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Forests on fire – 23 May 2022

The forest fires that are devastating areas across the Koh-e-Sulaiman range have continued for nearly two weeks – with authorities struggling to contain them. On May 19, at least three persons burned to death and four others were injured after a fire engulfed thousands of pine trees in the Sherani district in Balochistan. In the absence of proper fire-fighting arrangements in the district, the local people could not do much to contain the fire. Now, authorities say that Iran has provided a special plane to Pakistan to put out the fires – while the army has also started fire-fighting operations. Such fires are a terrible reminder of how ill-prepared we are across Pakistan to face such blazes. Forest fires are not a new phenomenon and most of them are either caused by excessive heat or a negligent visitor who triggers a spark wittingly or unwittingly. In Pakistan, we have seen an unusually high number of forest fires lately and the response from the concerned authorities has been expectedly sluggish. This is summer at its worst, and a blaze or two here and there are expected anytime.

Recent forest fires, from Kahuta to Margalla Hills, have not only caused destruction to flora and fauna, but have also unfortunately become an attraction for TikTokers and social media enthusiasts. On May 20, TikToker Nosheen Saeed alias Dolly was granted interim bail in connection with a case registered against her for setting the forest ablaze while filming a video. Two separate TikTok videos went viral on social media in the third week of May: one showing two youngsters setting the forest ablaze on Margalla Hills and the other of Dolly performing in front of a fire in the forest. It is disappointing how the departments responsible for preservation of forest cover either remained oblivious to the blaze or just took it lightly. The excuse that the spark was ignited in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is not a valid reason for Islamabad authorities to justify their slow response.

The Murree hills are also particularly prone to such fires that consume dozens of acres within hours, if not minutes. These fires spread fast and a quick response is perhaps the only remedy – and that requires a never-alert staff with ever ready equipment and fire brigade. Lack of preparedness remains an issue in the face of most natural or human-made calamities in the country. From cloudbursts, earthquakes and fires to glacial outbursts and severe snowfalls, every controllable and uncontrollable, expected and unexpected disaster is likely to become tragic if there is almost none or negligible readiness to cope with such challenges. In most cases, the local communities are left to their own devices which are inadequate and in some cases may be counterproductive. There is also a dire need to educate people about the effects of climate change, one of which is such wildfires – as well as how deliberate fires in green areas lead to long-lasting damage for the whole country. With changing climatic conditions and extreme weather patterns, more natural calamities are around the corner. The country needs better and more prompt mechanisms to respond to such events. A natural catastrophe is the last thing the people of this country can afford in the presence of an already heated-up economic and political atmosphere.

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Suo motu notice – 23 May 2022

The chief justice said the suo motu was only ‘meant to protect the criminal justice system and the rule of law’

The Supreme Court’s decision to bar the government from ordering postings and transfers of officials involved in “high profile” cases has created a massive stir in political circles, starting with how the case started. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial had taken suo motu notice of several postings and transfers and of “news reports” such as those relating to the death of former FIA director Mohammad Rizwan, who was probing money laundering charges against PM Shehbaz Sharif and his son, Punjab CM Hamza Shehbaz. While no wrongdoing was alleged in his death, which occurred a few weeks after his transfer, PTI leaders put out several conspiracy theories blaming the Sharifs.

Interestingly, Rizwan also led the sugar mafia probes, which suggested that then-PTI darling Jehangir Tareen, former federal minister Khusro Bakhtiyar, and several others were involved in illegal practices. However, the PTI government shelved the probe, allegedly to protect its leaders and allies. This allows PML-N leaders the room to complain why no suo motu notices were taken on this Rs110 billion case or several other long-pending cases against the PTI. Former attorney general Irfan Qadir has also noted that the suo motu could be seen as interference in the affairs of the executive. Other criticisms, such as the failure to appoint judges against several vacant posts, seemed out of place since some of these posts had been vacant for several months during the PTI’s tenure, whereas the incumbents have been in power for barely a month.

Meanwhile, the court’s decision to stop NAB and FIA from dropping cases could backfire by leaving cases open against people who were wrongly charged. However, we must also note that the chief justice said the suo motu was only “meant to protect the criminal justice system and the rule of law”, rather than point fingers. Neutral observers would agree that at least a few of the events pointed to by the court raise suspicion. Whether that is justifiable or otherwise coincidental, it is in the government and the public’s best interest that these are quickly clarified.

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Quack puts lives of two brothers in danger after circumcision – 23 May 2022

NAROWAL: A quack has allegedly damaged the genitals of two brothers during circumcision at a private hospital in Siallcot.

Shahzain, a labourer of Goharpur area of Siallcot city, took his sons Muhammad Sahil, 3, and Muhammad Ayan, 1, to a private hospital two weeks ago for circumcision. He said the doctor charged exorbitant fee for circumcision of the children and discharged them after two days.

The children kept screaming due to severe pain instead of healing, he said, adding that he eventually took them back to the hospital where the doctor asked them to take the children to some other hospital.

`When I asked about the condition of the children, the doctor insulted me and took me out of the hospital,` said Shahzain. He said he took his children to the Children`s Hospital, Sialkot, where doctors informed him that the genitals of the young ones had been damaged and they were in pain due to infection.

Shahzainsaid thelives ofhis childrenhad been putin danger by the quack. He said he had filed a complaint against the private hospital to the health department, the deputy commissioner and the Muradpura police station but to no avail.

Local residents Abdul Khalig and Karim Bakhsh said there were complaints about the private hospital which was not even registered with the Punjab Healthcare Commission. They said the hospital was notorious as surgical instruments were being reused without sterelisation.-Correspondent

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Police recover abducted girl from Pakpattan on CJ order – 23 May 2022

LAHORE: Police on Sunday informed the Lahore High Court that the teenage girl abducted from Shadbagh had been recovered from Pakpattan.

Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti on Sunday took notice of the abduction of the girl from Lahore`s Shadbagh area and held first hearing at 8pm.

Additional Advocate General Jawwad Yaqoob, IGP Sardar Rao and CCPO Bilal Siddique Kamyana appeared before the court.

During the final phase of hearing at 10:30pm, police also produced the father of the girl in court. On court`s query, the father confirmed that his daughter had been recovered.

The chief justice lauded the efforts of police and dis-posed of the matter.

During the first phase of the hearing, the chief justice expressed displeasure over the failure of police to recover the girl before the kidnappers took her out of the city and allegedly reached Pakpattan. He observed that police should have secured all exit points of the city.

`I consider her my daughter and you should also have the same feelings about the abducted girl,` the chief justice told the police officers.

The CJ turned down a request of the IGP to adjourn the hearing for Monday morning and reminded him that the court did not take notice for giving more time to police. He said all efforts would be useless if the abducted girl did not reach her home before the night.He warned the police officers that the prime minister would be asked to remove the IGP, the CCPO and the SHO concerned if the girl was not recovered by 10pm.

The chief justice also rejected a request of the law officer to stop media from reporting the proceedings of the case.

According to a report, police registered a case against suspects Ilyas and Abid. The 17-year-old girl was abducted in Lahore in broad daylight as she was returning home with her brother after appearing for her matriculation examination.

The teenager and her brother were on a motorcycle when four kidnappers pushed them to the roadside using their car.

They bundled the girl into the car and took her away after beating her brother.

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Six held for murder of Spanish sisters – 23 May 2022

GUJRAT: Police on Sunday arrested at least six suspects involved in the brutal murder of two Spanish national sisters of Pakistan origin within 24 hours of the incident in Nothia village of Gullana police precincts.

The arrested suspects also include real brothers Shehryar and Asfand of slain women, two men, Hassan and Atig, with whom their nil(ah had been done and paternal uncle Raja Haneef alias Goga and one Qasid. All of the arrested suspects were involved and booked in the murder case of both the sisters for their resistance in processing to get visas of Spain for their husbands.

Gujrat District Police Officer Ataur Rehman told the reporters at a news conference in his office that Arooj Abbas and Aneesa Abbas weremarried to their cousins last year but they were against their forced marriage. However, the suspects deceitfully called them to Pakistan from Spain and a day later (on May 20) killed both the sisters. Police had registered a case on their own and launched a search to arrest the fleeing suspects.

Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz and Inspector General Police Rao Sardar had taken notice of the incident and directed Gujrat Police to arrest the suspects without any delay.

The DPO said a police team was constituted under Kharian Deputy Superintendent of Police Raja Zahid, which arrested six main suspects within 24.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Punjab Police said IGPKhanhas directedthe DPO Gujrat to conduct investigation of the case under his supervision.

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Bus company driver rapes hostess – 23 May 2022

BAHAWALPUR: A driver of a private bus company allegedly raped an hostess at 13-BC village here on Sunday.

According to police sources, the bus driver after reaching Bahawalpur from Islamabad took the hostess (who belongs to Mansehra) to some place by a rickshaw. She alleged that the driverraped herand Hed.

On her complaint, the Baghdadul Jadid police registered an FIR 444/22 under section 377 of PPC against the suspect.

PRO Muhammad Iqbal told Dawn that police arrested the suspect and put him behind the bars.

FLOUR: On the instructions of Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz,260 sales points and shops have been designated across the district to provide nour to people at the slashed rate of Rs490 per 10kg.

DFC Zulfiqar Ahmed said the Punjab government under the CM relief package had provided subsidy to the customers and flour would be available at Rs490 per 10kg at the designated sale points and shops. He said 27,790 flour bags would be sold on a daily basis in the district by giving a subsidy of Rs160 per bag.-Correspondent

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WAF demands immediate recovery of three ‘abducted’ women – 23 May 2022

KARACHI: The Women Action Forum (WAF) on Sunday said that three Baloch women had been abducted allegedly by state agencies in the city.

In a statement issued to the media, the WAF expressed serious concerns over the incident and urged the authorities for their early recovery.

It condemned “the abduction of three Baloch women from Karachi and holds the state of Pakistan responsible for this unconstitutional act”.

“The WAF believes that justice should have a transparent process and that must be free of violence. The WAF extends solidarity with the families and friends of the three Baloch women, and demands that they be allowed to join their families,” the statement said, adding: “No institution should be allowed to undertake high-handed actions.”

The rights group, which has been supporting the rights of all women in Pakistan, said: “The issue of missing person is a national one and not only of the communities/groups that are vulnerable to this practice.”

“It is the responsibility of all civil society groups in Pakistan to pressurise the provincial and federal governments to put an end to this unconstitutional practice,” it said.

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Two men get 15-month imprisonment for eve-teasing – 23 May 2022

KARACHI: A judicial magistrate has sentenced two men for 15 months in prison for eve-teasing.

Muhammad Jafar and Faizan Ahmed were found guilty of harassing and committing obscene acts with a 25-year-old woman on Sharea Faisal on Aug 28, 2021.

Judicial Magistrate (East) Niaz Husain Kandhro pronounced his verdict after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.

The judge noted that the prosecution had proved the case against both the accused beyond a shadow of doubt.

The court convicted both the accused of committing the offence punishable under Section 345 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 294 (obscene acts and songs) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The judge cancelled the bail of both the accused and remanded them to prison to serve out their sentences.

According to the prosecution, the complainant said that both the accused often teased and harassed his daughter, who was a nurse at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, on her way to the bus stop. They did not mend their ways despite complaints, he added.

The victim deposed that on the day of the incident as she returned from the job and got off the bus, both the accused, already present there, pushed her and started harassing her.

However, her brother, who had come to pick her from the bus stop, got hold of Jafar while Ahmed managed to escape.

A case was registered under Sections 354, 294 and 34 (common intention) of the PPC at the Sharea Faisal police station on the complaint of the victim`s father.

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