ISLAMABAD - PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar yesterday questioned constitutional and legal status of Council of Islamic Ideology, proposing the matter should be referred to the standing committee on law and justice for expert legal opinion.

The treasury lawmakers from PML-N and JUI-F came down hard on PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar when he questioned the legal status of the council.

The discussion on the annual reports of the Council of Islamic Ideology from 2009 to 2012 was held for the first time in the history of the upper house of the parliament.

Senator Farhatullah Babar, while taking part in the debate, said as the status of CII was questionable the mater should be referred to the standing committee on law and justice for expert legal opinion.

Quoting from the 2011-12 report, he said even the council had frankly admitted that after submission of its final report in December 1996, it was no longer constitutionally required to continue submitting annual reports to the parliament.

However, the council also unilaterally decided to keep submitting annual reports for what it says continuity of a tradition, he said and asked what obliges the parliament to accept the desire of following a tradition that is sanctioned neither by the constitution, nor has the law or the parliament asked for it.

“The fact that it is no longer a constitutional requirement for the council to submit annual reports raises questions about its status which needs to be looked into and clarified,” he said. He added the council, merely an advisory body, can neither make a law nor can it revoke any law. The task assigned to it under the 1973 Constitution has been completed and further submission of annual reports is no longer a constitutional requirement.

On the other hand, the Federal Shariat Court is tasked to examine laws, which can even strike down any law on the touchstone of whether it was Islamic or not. “Then what was the need for CII and its reports?” he asked. Furthermore, according to its special 2008 report, 90 percent of the laws were not in conflict with Islam and that only 10 percent may be reviewed by the parliament. An examination of the remaining 10 percent laws was now in the domain of the parliament and not the council, he said.

He claimed the Council had also made some very controversial pronouncements. Citing examples, he said the council had rejected a draft bill for establishing homes for the elderly, saying the idea was against the norms and traditions of the society; it rejected the Women Protection Bill, 2006, and declared that DNA test results as unacceptable as primary evidence in cases of rape.

Some time back, the council first approved the draft of a resolution recommending amendment in the blasphemy law so as to discourage false allegations. However, soon the hardliners joined hands and struck down the proposed resolution.

“In March 2014, the CII decreed that current laws forbidding child marriage were un-Islamic,” he said, adding in 1978 it recommended that Pakistan should include Kalima Tayyaba and inscribe Allah-o-Akbar on the national flag to inspire people for martyrdom and jihad. Surprisingly, the flag of Taliban bears these symbols what they call jihad, Babar said.

The Senate chairman opposed the suggestion of sending the matter to standing committee on law and justice, saying there is no mention in the constitution that after submission of its report, the CII would cease to exist. Raja Zafarul Haq endorsed the views of the chairman.

However, Maulana Attaur Rehman and Hafiz Hamdullah from the JUI-F, in their separate remarks, said some members were criticising Islam. “Islam is being criticised on the pretext of the CII report,” he said, adding a wrong impression was being given that Islam was the cause of spreading terrorism. “Is there no terrorism in the name of nationalism,” he said, pointing toward an MQM senator who had also criticised the council. Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan clarified that discussion on CII should not be taken as criticism on Islam and that there was no harm in asking a question about its status.

Separately, the Senate directed the adviser to prime minister on foreign affairs to take the house into confidence in an in-camera session on the recent Saudi Arabia-Iran conflict. Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq said the matter was sensitive and should not be thrown open at the stage when talks with both the countries were going on. Col (r)Tahir Mashhadi from the MQM had sought a statement from the adviser after highlighting the sensitivity of the issue.

Rabbani asked Sartaj Aziz to brief the house on Iran-Saudi relations, recent visits of Saudi ministers and quadrilateral meeting on Afghanistan.