ISLAMABAD - PML MNA Marvi Memon on Tuesday tabled the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill-2014 in the National Assembly (NA) to prevent child marriages in the country which she believes are in practice due to poverty, illiteracy and bad socio-cultural norms prevalent in the society.

Sharing the salient features of the bill seeking amendments in the Child Marriage Restraint Act-1929, she said that early age marriage badly affects the health of teenage girls in the country. “An early marriage leads to early conception, which affects the health of teenage girls.”

But Religious Affairs Mister Sardar Yousaf and Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Muhammad Khan Sheerani said the matter should be deliberated in the CII. The CII is an advisory body formed to see if the existing laws of the land or any proposed legislation are in compliance with Islamic teachings.

Over the past few years this Council has given a number of controversial and ultra-conservative suggestions, including the one given few weeks ago that the existing law requiring married men to seek permission for second or more marriages from the existing wife or wives is “un-Islamic”.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill says, “In developing countries the leading cause of death for young girls between the age of 15 to 18 is early pregnancy.... Poverty, illiteracy, anti-human rights social and cultural practices are factors in the prevalence of child marriages (in Pakistan).”

“Unfortunately the practice of child marriages is common in all parts of Pakistan particularly in the poor urban and rural areas but the act of solemnising child marriage is not cognisable and the police cannot take actions against the offenders... Typically, enormous pressure to bear children is put on child brides,” it said.

The assembly, on the first private members day of its 10th session, also passed a resolution to cut indirect taxation, as it will help reduce the exploitation of the poor in the country. The opposition lawmakers stressed the need for revolutionary steps to discourage indirect taxes in the country and proposed to broaden tax base and minimise withholding tax, besides other measures.

PTI lawmaker Asad Umar, mover of the motion, said that over 3,000,000 people in the country were not paying their due taxes. “Exploitation of the poor people should stop at least in the upcoming federal budget,” said the PTI lawmaker from Islamabad, strongly opposing the tax amnesty schemes in the country.

The treasury benches defending their strategy said that notices had been issued to some 70,000 rich people to come into the tax net, otherwise their CNICs would be cancelled. Taking the floor, MQM lawmaker Asif Hasnain said balance in tax system could be introduced through properly introducing Islamic Zakat system in the country.

Taking part in discussion, PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri proposed that proper documentation could be the best solution for tax system. “Indirect taxes should be discouraged,” she added. A senior PPP lawmaker Abdul Sattar Bachani said that there was need to bring agricultural reforms in the country.

PTI’s senior legislator Javed Hashmi stressed the need for revolutionary steps to discourage indirect tax base in the country. “Those who are transferring their capital out of country should be questioned about their income,” he said. Criticising the government’s measures about tax collection, PTI’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi indicated that positive intentions could help broaden the tax net. “Problem lies in political will,” he said, arguing against indirect tax system.

In their defence, Malik Pervez from the treasury said the system could not be improved overnight. “Growth rate is only 2.9 per cent which could not help increase tax system,” he added. Parliamentary Secretary for Finance Rana Afzal said that incumbent government had continuously been taking measures for broadening tax system. “The government has repaid six per cent foreign loan in one year,” he said and defended tax amnesty system in the country.

Earlier, four other bills – The Constitution Amendment Bill-2014 (Amendment in Article 51), The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill, The Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill-2014 and The Constitution Amendment Bill-2014 (Amendment in Article 198) were introduced and referred to the concerned standing committees.

The statement of objects and reasons of ‘The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill’ says it is function of the state to protect the inviolable dignity of children as human rights. The corporal punishment must be banned and replaced with constructive and communicative approach. It says a person who is guilty of inflicting corporal punishment on a child be punished with one-year imprisonment and Rs 50,000 fine.

Responding to the concerns raised by lawmakers on a call-attention notice about installation of telephone tower in residential areas, Parliamentary Secretary for Cabinet Secretariat Raja Javed Ikhlas said there was no chance of health hazard.

Terming the concerns as baseless, he said NoC was awarded with the permission of frequency allocation board. “Some 120 million people are benefiting from the telecom services in the country,” he added.