If a married Hindu woman is abducted and forcibly married her family has no means to prove her marriage. Recent statements by the federal government may finally address this terrible situation of civil rights for Hindus. The federal government will not wait any longer for the provinces to pass a resolution for allowing the center to approve legislation on Hindu Marriage Bill. This proposed law will soon be passed by National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

Because of such lacunas, Pakistan becoming a secular state is important. There are people living in our country that are non-Muslim; and that this simple statement even has to be emphasised, that we have minorities, is a sign of how our lawmakers have failed us. Secularism would not require the creation of additional laws for minorities. There should be one civil marriage law applicable to all.

These are fundamental rights that our state has not been able to secure for its population in seven decades and provincial delays put our regional parliaments to shame. In the wake of the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the minorities’ subject devolved and became a provincial subject so the federal government could not legislate until the provincial assemblies passed resolutions for allowing the center to pass law on this subject. It is sad to conclude that devolution has only created more inefficiency in the system, and more room to discriminate against minorities.

If the bill is passed it will only be implemented in the federal capital territory, as under the 18th Amendment, the provinces have to legislate on minority issues independently. However, Article 144 states that provincial assemblies can pass resolutions allowing the federal parliament to legislate for the provinces, but they need to wake up. In June 2015, the Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights discussed the Hindu Marriage Bill 2015 and deferred it till it could obtain resolutions from the provinces to apply the bill nationally.

In Sindh, where the majority of Pakistan’s Hindu citizens reside, the matter has to be made a priority. A bill on the Hindu Marriage Act 2015, presented by Nand Kumar of the PML-F is pending, despite the fact that the ruling party in Sindh claims to be secular. Reportedly the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights has been sending reminders to the Sindh law department to pass the resolution required under Article 144, giving the federal legislature the authority to legislate for Hindus, but there has been no response from the province.