ISLAMABAD  - The upper house of the Parliament Monday adopted a unanimous resolution condemning the move of barring women from casting their votes in the recent by-election of KP-95 constituency of Lower Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, terming it a blatant violation of the Constitution and basic human rights.

All the candidates contesting the by-election held on May 7 had reportedly decided mutually that women would not cast their votes. This drew condemnation at national and international level.

The resolution was tabled by a number of women lawmakers, both from the opposition and treasury benches on a private members’ day.

While disposing of a motion, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani ruled that a special committee comprising the whole house under the newly amended rules would be formed to suggest steps to the government to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to people in the country.

A number of lawmakers, taking part in discussion on the motion moved by Senator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi on speedy and inexpensive justice, demanded that either the motion should be referred to the standing committee concerned or a special committee be formed to recommend ways in this regard.

Senator Saif of MQM said dispensation of justice in Pakistan was not as much important as access to justice. He said ‘Access to Justice Programme’ was initiated in Pakistan with the $300 million funding of Asian Development Bank in 2003, but these funds were misappropriated. “Public Defenders System and Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) System exists only in papers,” he said and added both should be ensured.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said restoration of the former CJP in 2009 through public uprising had given unique powers to the judiciary to address issues in criminal justice system, but the great opportunity was lost in pursuit of other objectives.

The judiciary vigorously pursued objectives of independence and appointment of judges as well as widespread and unchecked use of suo motu powers, neglecting the critical issue of providing speedy justice and reforming the system.

“The goal of independence has often been so vigorously pursued that at times it appeared the courts are stressing their independence not only from other state organs but also from the law and the Constitution itself,” he said.

He said under the Constitution it was the responsibility of the state, but, according to former CJP Tassaduq Jilani, the burden of providing speedy justice lay more on the shoulders of judiciary than on other state organs. “Lack of speedy justice has resulted in people losing faith in the justice system, giving rise to parallel justice system like jirgas and panchayats and now to military courts which announces executions of people through twitter messages. The criminal justice system had never been so trivialised,” he said. He said that since 1956 several commissions and bodies had been set up, which had also given their recommendations. And in 1981 a permanent law commission was also set up. “But neither we evolved an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism nor did we provide speedy justice to the people,” he concluded.

Senators Lt-Gen (r) Abdul Qayyum and Lt-Gen (r) Salahuddin Tirmizi underlined the need for evolution of ADR mechanism through panchayat and local government systems.

Law Minister Pervaiz Rasheed, winding up the debate, said the government had introduced some judicial reforms in the existing judicial system and added family laws had been amended for speedy justice. He said the prime minister had also formed legal reforms committee which had sent its report to the PM’s Office. He said ‘Cost of Litigation Bill’ 2015, was ready to be tabled in the Parliament to discourage false litigation.

The house passed another resolution with the majority of vote that recommended to the government to lift ban on new industrial/commercial gas connections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on account of protection given under Article 158 of the Constitution. Some members from the government benches opposed the resolution, but the government supported it.