‘Hindus in Pak struggling to register marriages`

There is no system in Pakistan for registering the marriages of certain minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs and Baha`is.

Last Updated: Sep 19, 2011, 16:21 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Hindus are struggling
to register their marriages due to chronic delays in the
passage of the draft bill for the Hindu Marriage Act that was
proposed in 2008, according to a media report on Monday.

The draft bill, which is yet to be tabled in Parliament,
seeks to address the decades-old problem faced by Pakistan`s
largest minority community that numbers about four million.

There is no system in Pakistan for registering the
marriages of certain minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs and
Baha`is, `The Express Tribune` daily reported.

Pakistani Hindus often face difficulties when travelling
abroad due to the lack of a marriage certificate, said
parliamentarian Araish Kumar.

"These are not the best of times for us as we face stiff
resistance from the government on the issue," he said.

Moreover, Hindus will get computerised National Identity
Cards if the bill is passed, he said.

However, the government and some Hindus do not see
eye-to-eye over a controversial divorce clause in the draft
bill, the report said. "How can we allow the inclusion of a
divorce clause as there is no concept of divorce in our
religion?" Kumar said.

Clause 13 of the proposed 16-page bill, which covers
divorce, states that any Hindu can divorce his or her spouse
at any time and in any court.

Various conditions have been proposed for divorce
proceedings. The draft empowers any court to entertain any
petition for the legal dissolution of a marriage.

Various other rules have been included in the bill, such
as when divorcees may marry again, the legal rights of
children, void and voidable marriages, and the punishment for
bigamy and other contraventions of Hindu marriage laws.

The draft also lays out the practical ramifications of
divorce cases, such as the content and verification of
petitions, custody of children, ownership of property and
savings, and repeals.

Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill, who is
responsible for the affairs of minority communities, said:
"Our first priority is to get the Hindu Marriage Act passed at
all cost." He admitted that the divorce clause was a bone of
contention between the government and Hindus.

However, Gill was optimistic consensus could be reached on
the issue after taking all stakeholders into confidence. "I
will go to every extent for the rights of minorities...
Marriage Registration Acts will be prepared for all
minorities," he said.

Gill said the government had sought the opinion of leaders
from the Hindu panchayat in Karachi, Nagarparkar and Rahim Yar
Khan, who drafted the bill for registering marriages based on
the Indian model.

In a related development, Sikh leaders have dispelled the
impression that the draft bill can also be applied to
registering the marriages of Sikhs.

"How can this proposed act be applicable for us as our
customs are totally different for performing marriages," said
Swaran Singh, a senior member of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara
Prabandhak Committee.

Gill said, "We will introduce separate bills for marriage
registration of Hindus, Sikhs and Bahai`s." He said he had
also decided to summon a meeting of lawmakers and
representatives who represent minorities to pave the way to
table the bill in parliament.

PTI