Pakistani women
Representative Image.Reuters

A prominent Pakistani religious body has asked a National Assembly panel to make triple talaq a punishable crime in the country. The move comes a month after the Indian parliament passed a bill criminalising instant divorce.  

The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) told the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Law and Justice that the act of verbal divorce which is considered final even after being uttered in jest should be made a punishable crime, according to report by Pakistani news portal The Express Tribune.

Citing a precedent in Islamic history with the example of the second Caliph of Islam, Hazrat Umar bin Khattab who made the act of triple talaq a punishable offence, Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem said the National Assembly "can make laws to make this action a punishable crime."

Echoing Naseem's statement, the CII Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said that "if the ministry of law agrees to our suggestion to make it a punishable offence, the punishment can also be determined."

According to the report, the proposed amendment to the Muslim Women Marriage ordinance was tabled in the National Assembly. As many as 51 bills, most of them women and children centric, are with the parliament panel. The meeting has been adjourned until the body's next unspecified meeting.

However, it was revealed that the committee chairman, who is also the Provincial Minister of Punjab for Women Development, Riaz Fatyana, had raised inquiries on the ministries' lack of response to the details sought by the committee for more than 750 laws in the country.

Referring to ambiguity and a large number of laws, he called for making the new legislation comprehensive. "A larger number of laws create ambiguity among the investigating officers and in courts," he said.

Proposed legislation contested

According to the current divorce laws in Pakistan, women's agency is limited with the only provision of asking for the nullification of marriage through seeking 'khula' or by approaching the courts.

While CII had earlier recommended criminalising triple talaq under its Muslim marriage law, the proposed legislation had been contested by activists who stated that the bill had severe limitations and did not consider women being subjected to mental and physical harassment in the institution of marriage.

The Indian Lok Sabha passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) bill 2019 in July. The new law criminalises instant triple talaq. A breach of the law can land the husband in up to three years of imprisonment.