Islamabad, Jul 6: The minority Hindu community in Pakistan, living without a marriage law since the country was founded in 1947, may get a landmark legislation soon to help them register their marriages.
The Hindus, who constitute 1.6 per cent of Pakistan's total population, have been struggling to get a specific law since last 67 years to get their marriages legalised and registered.
The bill was jointly presented in the parliament last year by Ramesh Lal of opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Darshan of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), while a separate but similar government bill has been tabled in the parliament by Law Minister Pervaiz Rashid in March, this year.
The two bills will establish rules and regulation for registration of marriage and divorce for Pakistani Hindu, as presently in the absence of such a law, Hindus in the country do not even have a legal document as proof of marriage.
The private member bills do not have express consent of the government and are rarely passed, while the government bills are moved with the backing of sitting government.
In cases of importance like the proposed Hindu Marriage Act, the private member bill is usually backed by the government or the private member withdraw the bill in favour of the official law after necessary changes.
PPP's Ramesh Lal said that it appeared the government wanted to take credit as there was hardly any difference between the bill moved by him and the government bill. Lal said he had consulted elders and legal experts of the Hindu community on the draft prepared by the government.
He said he has also consulted former Supreme Court judge late Rana Bhagwandas while preparing the draft of his law. A major difference between the two bills is the jurisdiction of the law.
The federal government terms the Hindu marriage a provincial subject and the draft of the government bill states that the law will apply only to Islamabad Capital Territory. On the other hand, the private member bill states that the law will be applicable across the country.
If the government bill is adopted, then the four provinces will make separate laws to deal with marriages of Hindus, thus further delaying the demand of many members of the community as majority of Hindus live in areas other than federal capital.
According to 1998 survey, Pakistan has 21,11,271 Hindus which is 1.6 per cent of the total population. After the parliamentary committee approves the law, it will go to the National Assembly, which should pass it with simple majority to become a law.