Pakistan: Civil society groups reject proposed Shariah, Hasba acts

The Joint Action Committee (JAC), a forum of civil society groups, has rejected the proposed NWFP Shariah Act, 2003, and the Hasba Act.
The JAC stated that both these documents reflect the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal's (MMA) government fascist desires to forcefully impose its own nefarious wishes on people in the name of Islam.
A meeting of the committee was held on Friday in the office of Strengthening Participatory Organisations. The main agenda of the meeting was the proposed acts, that have been approved by the provincial cabinet and are ow placed before the provincial assembly for discussion.

According to a press release issued here on Saturday, the committee members discussed in detail both the contents and process for bringing the two pieces of the proposed legislation into effect in the province. There was a unanimous agreement that the process adopted was flawed as it had not been opened to public debate in order to gather input from various strata of society.

The forum was of the opinion that any piece of legislation is too serious a business to be left to the whims of a selected few, even if they are elected representatives.

The participants opined that the process adopted by the MMA government in the province was also in contradiction with the Islamic principles under which an opinion only becomes a law when various opinions are culminated through voluntary Ijma of the people into one.

Since the term Shariah has yet not been defined in the country, the MMA's government proposal for a Shariah bill was in contradiction with Islam and the Constitution, they said.

On the proposed legislations' content, the members felt that it was in direct conflict with Islam, the Constitution of the country and other existing judicial and administrative set-ups in the province.

They expressed concern over the supra constitutional and judicial powers given to the mohtasib under the proposed Hasba Act "in an attempt to further weaken the judiciary".

Under the Hasba Act, there was also no accountability of the chief minister and the mohtasib who would enjoy a free reign to consider whatever he deemed right or wrong and issue punishment on the spot, the members stated.

They also said the two proposed legislations were not only in serious conflict with the principles of Islam and the Constitution, but were also a deliberate attempt to violate the human rights. They would result in abuse of power in the province, they viewed.

The committee demanded of the federal and provincial governments to withdraw the bill forthwith and first place it for a wider public debate through media, discussion forums and consultations at various levels.

The meeting was attended by about 30 representatives of NGOs and CBOs, university and college teachers, labour unions, journalists and political activists.