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Saturday June 15, 2024

Minimum age for marriage: Ideological divide in PTI a challenge for Imran

Signs of division surfaced on Tuesday when two PTI ministers - Noorul Haq Qadri and Ali Muhammad Khan - opposed the presentation of the private bill on the issue in Parliament by a PTI minority member while a third one - Dr Shireen Mazari- supported it.

By Ansar Abbasi
May 02, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Ideological differences between secular and religious thinking within the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) may pose a serious challenge to the Imran Khan government as parliament moves to amend a controversial law to set minimum age for marriage at 18.

Though the issue is also expected to invite strong protest from religious circles in the country, for the Imran Khan government the proposed law has all the ingredients of a serious threat because of serious divisions within the PTI cabinet and the party on the subject.

Signs of division surfaced on Tuesday when two PTI ministers - Noorul Haq Qadri and Ali Muhammad Khan - opposed the presentation of the private bill on the issue in Parliament by a PTI minority member while a third one - Dr Shireen Mazari- supported it. Ali Muhammad, the State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, said that he would oppose its enactment even if it costs him his ministry and Parliament’s membership.

Dr Shireen Mazari said when the minimum age for marriage is set in other Islamic countries and there is also a supportive edict issued by Egypt’s Jamia Al-Azhar then why it can’t happen in Pakistan.

In his twitter message, another PTI Minister Ch Fawad Hussain contributed to this controversy by saying, “What hopes can one really attribute to society whose fifty elected representatives and even ministers actually voted for under age marriage? Should be enough to give sleepless nights to the world and intelligentsia of our own… really a scary moment.”

Both Religious Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan while opposing the bill had insisted that the bill is un-Islamic and thus could not be supported. They also emphasised that as per the Constitution of Pakistan, no law which is repugnant to Islam could be passed by Parliament.

Although two federal ministers spoke against the bill, certain other cabinet ministers had also opted to leave the House when the vote of the members was sought whether to allow the bill to move or not. The majority allowed the bill to be presented before the National Assembly, which then referred it to the relevant committee for consideration.

Sources said that some of the ministers have decided to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan to inform him how this bill violates the Islamic teachings according to which minimum age of a person to get married can’t be fixed as it is linked with puberty.

Interestingly, more than once the matter of fixing minimum age 18 for marriage has been referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology, every time the council rejected it and termed it unIslamic.

The CII is the constitutional body which is assigned to advise the legislature whether or not a certain law is Sharia-compliant. The CII in the past had ruled the minimum age stipulated for marriage in the Child Marriages Restriction Act of 1929 does not comply with Islamic laws.

During the last PML-N government, some N-leaguer had introduced the bill seeking amendments to the marriage act but it was withdrawn after the then CII chairman said that the bill was contrary to Islamic teachings and laws.

“Parliament cannot create legislation that is against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah,” Maulana Sheerani the then CII chairman had said while backing his arguments with relevant laws and a few references from the Holy Quran and Hadith. According to Islamic laws, Sheerani had said, marriage can be solemnised when a girl attains puberty.