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Pakistan lawmakers move to close sharia advisory body

Council of Islamic Ideology caused outcry with statement on second marriages reporter, Karachi

April 1, 2014

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Government and opposition lawmakers from Pakistan’s Sindh province came together yesterday to call for the abolition of the country’s official body of Islamic scholars.

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), which was established in 1962, is constitutionally authorized to advise parliamentarians on the compatibility of laws with Islamic sharia.

Last month, the CII drew strong condemnation from human rights campaigners and civil society after it declared that under Sharia men are permitted to take more than one wife without seeking permission from the existing wife.  

"Sharia allows men to wed again without the consent of first or existing wives and we demand that the government amend the [family] law," council chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani said in a meeting.

Sheerani went on to say that the country’s laws regarding the minimum age of marriage were un-Islamic and that children of any age should be allowed to get married if they had reached puberty.

On Monday, the Provincial Assembly of Sindh unanimously adopted a resolution against the CII’s recommendations on underage marriages and second marriages. The lawmakers also demanded that the CII be disbanded.

“This house shows its strong reservations over the recent recommendations of the Council of Islamic Ideology that shows complete indifference and insensitivity to women's issues,” read the resolution, submitted by female lawmaker Mahtab Akbar Rashdi.

Rashdi said that all the recommendations made by the CII were regressive and discriminatory against women.

“Women have been given a special status in Islam, but this kind of mindset in the Council wants to impose its own interpretation of sharia,” she said.

In addition, the provincial assembly also slammed Friday’s gun attack on liberal TV commentator and columnist Raza Rumi in Lahore. In a separate resolution, the house urged the Sindh government to approach the federal government to take action against those behind the attack on Rumi.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, rights activists and civil society representatives staged a protest against the CII’s recommendations on child marriage. The protesters also urged the government to disband the CII, pointing out that it would also save taxpayers’ money.

“The CII is making a mockery of Islam by making retrogressive and anti-women recommendations," said human rights activist Farzana Bari. 

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