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As per directive of Finance Division, Government of Pakistan, Rs. 40,000 denomination National Prize Bonds have been withdrawn from circulation with immediate effect.

  • The prize bonds shall not be sold after June 24th 2019
  • They shall not be liable for encashment/redeeming after 31st March 2020
  • No further draws of Rs.40,000 bonds would be held

Options for bond holders to replace bonds:

  1. Conversion to premium prize bonds (Registered)
  2. Replacement with Special Savings Certificates (SSC)/ Defence Savings Certificates
  3. Encashment at face value

Dilemma of minimum marriage age

The introduction of Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in the National Assembly of Pakistan earlier this month has once again stirred controversy regarding the sensitive topic in almost all echelons of Pakistani society. The Senate of Pakistan had earlier unanimously passed a resolution to set minimum marriageable age to 18 years for girls. The bill sailed through the Senate despite stringent opposition from religious bloc as well as some elements of the ruling party. The idea of child marriage restraint is no stranger to antagonistic forces acting against it. It extends from the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 that had been enacted by Imperial Legislative Council in British India. The most pertinent question, however is that does setting a minimum marriage age even qualify as UN-Islamic in light of Islam itself?
Child Marriage is a custom ingrained within the echelons of Pakistani Society and geographically concentrated in Sindh alongside the peripheral areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.Mostly girls and sometimes boys forced to contract marriages in their childhood is part of culture and tradition. Swara, WattaSatta and Wani are some of the customs employed to settle political and personal scores by enslaving minor girls and sometimes boys through forced marriage.The statistics on child marriage are as per UNICEF data are as follows:
• 99 percent girls and boys contract marriage in childhood in tribal areas
• 72 percent girls become child brides in Sindh
• 25 percent boys get married in childhood

Girls, particularly, are representation of ‘izzat’ (honor) for a family and thereby a highly valued trading commodity for the people who indulge in such practices. The direct victims of this deplorable practice are not only the women and girls.

World Health Organization estimates that 21 percent of girls become child brides. As per their estimates, between 2011 and 2020, 140 million underage girls will be forced to surrender their freedom to take on duties they are not mentally or physically prepared for. The result is a high maternal mortality rate. According to the WHO, every 20 minutes, a girl dies due to underage pregnancy. Suffering does not end on the mother. It extends to the child borne out of her fragile being.The existing Government aims to empower women by granting them entrepreneurship loans so women may perform their due economic roles. When a significant portion of 49 percent of the population is embroiled in controversies of child marriages, illiteracy and poor health; utilizing them as part of active workforce becomes hard to counter challenge.


From a religious perspective, the debate about minimum age of marriage being UN-Islamic holds little ground. Adulthood is a subjective concept in Islam as it is synonymous with Balooghat. Once children reach puberty, the obligatory religious acts like fasting and praying are proscribed onto them. Islamic history verifies that the Holy Prophet (SAWS) contracted marriage with Hazrat Ayesha (RA) at an early age, but references indicate that ‘rukhsati’ was performed when she was over 18 years of age. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, marriage is a contract. In order to validate a contract and thereby solemnize it, both parties are required to be fully eligible and equipped with legal sense to know what they are entering into. Such may not be expected of children- girls and boys who have barely passed grade school.

Perhaps, the issue is not about legislation or religion, but awareness. The Council of Islamic Ideology of Pakistan refrained from assuming a clear stance on the proposed Child Marriage Amendment Bill, 2018. However, the arguments assumed by their leaders seem to clear the dust. The late Grand Mufti of Pakistan, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi issued call discouraging the practice of child marriage. The CII published a 12-page report in this regard detailing the arguments of different Islamic Scholars in favor of and against child marriages. The details about the minimum marriage age in 12 Muslim countries were also taken into account with the conclusion that such practices are not compatible with the modern world today and hence should be discouraged. The CII further recommended the Government to initiate awareness campaigns to educate people about the demerits and complications of child marriage in association with Islamic scholars. It urged Government to take concrete measures to eliminate the reasons because of which families marry off their children at a young age .

The dilemma of minimum marriage age is a needless one. Neither religion nor rationality restricts setting such benchmarks. Only the vested interests in state and society oppose it. Instead of focusing of such needless debates, there is an urgent need to confront the issue head-on. Illiteracy, culture, tradition and poverty are the major reasons families choose to engage into child marriages. The following recommendations are proposed:

  1. The Government may work to eradicate poverty and improve access to education through safety nets and poverty eradication programs. Improving access of women to education and capital is pertinent to empower them and uplift them from their deplorable socio-economic conditions thereby helping them to resist pressure against unfair cultural traditions like child marriage.
  2. Engaging with Islamic scholars and creating community wide awareness campaigns to educate the public regarding deleterious impacts of child marriages may prove to be an efficient tool to reduce the occurrence of this tradition.
  3. Legislation acts as an effective deterrent in any society and it is therefore indispensible that a minimum marriage age for girls be legally set.
    With constitutional safeguards in place and awareness and social security programs in full force, Pakistan may be able to curb the issue of child marriages and its associated consequences.

Little Nashwa

The gruesome manslaughter of little Nashwa in a hospital in Pakistan’s largest metropolis, Karachi, is reason enough to send alarms bells blaring throughout echelons of the state and society. Her death due to recklessness of the ‘professionals’ at Dar-ul-Sehat Hospital and the lack of legal action that pursued the case is indicative of not only the dismal conditions of the health sector, but also the bleak state of affairs of justice. Little Nashwa breathed her last on April 22nd after being left paralyzed for over two weeks when the hospital administration ‘accidentally’ administered her with a high dose of intravenous potassium chloride (KCl). The infant went into cardiac arrest and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was performed on her for a staggering 45 minutes as declared by the forensic experts report.

Initially, videos surfaced on social media showing father of the victim, Qaiser Ali, trying unsuccessfully to get an FIR registered against the perpetrators and owners of the hospital. Only when the issue was raised by mainstream media was action taken by the police and a case was officially registered U/S 302 (premeditated murder), 322 (manslaughter) 337 (Shajjah: causing hurt) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) against the owners of the hospital Amir Waliuddin Chishti and Vice President Ali Farhan who incidentally are affiliated with a major political party. 11 other administrative officials were also nominated in the FIR few of whom were arrested soon afterwards including the on-duty doctor.
The Constitution of Pakistan does not guarantee any special rights to victims or their heirs. However, Article 9 of the Constitution declares that “no person should be deprived of their life”. Baby Nashwa was mercilessly treated at the hospital that resulted in her untimely death. A placard held during protests against inaction in the case rightly labelled the hospital as ‘Dar-ul-Mout’. The label may be extended to the entire health system. The provincial Government and Sindh Health Care Association failed to curtail or regimentalise the mushrooming growth of unlicensed hospitals and health centers springing throughout the province. Moreover, the action of the Chief Minister of establishing a two-member to probe the events and submit a report was paltry. The elite capture of state institutions barricades the way of common man towards justice.

After a dramatic trial involving arrests and absconding, the latest reports declare that Nashwas’ parents have effectively reached an ‘out-of-court’ settlement with the owners of Dar-ul-Sehat Hospital. As per Nashwa’s father, the pardon has been granted for sake of Allah Almighty. Her father also announced that the settlement is made on the basis of a few conditions:

• Commencement of state-of-the art ‘Baby Nashwa’ PICU in Dar-ul-Sehat Hospital by May 31st 2019
• Annual deposit of PKR 5 million in ‘Naswha Fund’ created by the parents of the deceased for treatment of disadvantaged children.

The steps are commendable, but they come at an all too familiar a price. The weaker party is often pressurized through several means into surrendering their cause and accepting defeat against powerful vested interests. Out-of-court settlements are a common feature of Pakistan’s criminal justice system. Nashwa’s parents initially pursed punitive legal action against the perpetrators as per remedies available under the Pakistan Penal Code.

However, the insignificant progress on the legal front and lack of hope for justice created perfect circumstances for a coerced settlement. The infant whose pictures flashed across screens throughout the country a few weeks ago seems to be long forgotten. Unfortunately, due to inability of Government to bring down the axe, it may not be long enough before more reports of more Nashwas come to light.Perhaps, the value of life in today’s Pakistan is that it holds no value.


The reinstatement of the mobile card top-up tax, a few days back,[1]on directive of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa marks a new beginning in the judicial history of Pakistan. Justice Khosa, in his verdict on the case, concluded; “For reasons to be recorded later, this human rights cell case and all interim orders are disposed of.” The Honorable Chief Justice contended that the case had only been taken up after an anonymous message on social media was circulated citing blatant exploitation of consumers due to excessive taxes on mobile cards. Considering the ‘fake news’ that makes rounds on social media platforms every now and then, the head of the apex court was regretful that suomotu proceedings were initiated on basis of a social media post.

Before analyzing the decision of the Supreme Court to forthwith overrule the stay order issued during reign of Justice Nisar and reinstate tax on mobile top-ups, it is important to get a quick overview of the mobile tax. As elaborated by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), when consumers purchased or loaded Rs.100 card, Rs.40 would be instantly deducted. The breakdown of taxes is as follows:

  • Income tax of 12.5 per cent deducted under Section 236 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR)
  • 10pc deducted by cellular companies for the services rendered by them
  • 17pc excise duty charged from the users in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT)
  • 5pc sales tax on services charged from the users by the provinces

The above deductions left Rs.61.93 in the consumers’ account as per FBR calculations.

Justice Nisar had asserted that the taxes levied on mobile top-ups were progressive with crushing impacts on the poor segments of society that already lived below the poverty line. Therein lied his decision, announced in a verdict on 11th June 2018, to suspend all such taxes. Consumers breathed a sigh of relief upon being exempted from heavy taxation and exploitation for using basic cellular services.

However, the impact of this tax to cash dried national and provincial coffers could not be  overlooked. The Supreme Court was informed by the FBR that the state suffered revenue losses amounting Rs.90bn since suspension of mobile card top-up tax. It was further revealed that the provinces earned significant revenue by levying this tax. Share of Punjab stood at Rs.120bn, closely followed by Sindh at Rs.90bn, KP at Rs.55bn and Baluchistan at Rs.36bn. Owing to suomotu proceedings of the Supreme Court, the provinces were deprived of collecting revenue that they are legally entitled to under Provincial Tax Acts. Due to presence of legislation on tax collection, the consumers are not aggrieved party and therefore, the issue of excessive taxes on mobile cards would not qualify as violation of public interest. The pertinence of the mobile tax was even highlighted even by Justice Nisar who hinted at using the generated revenue to fund dam construction.

As noted earlier, the restoration of mobile top-up taxes marks the apparent beginning of a new era. The Supreme Court has experienced radical paradigm shifts since assumption of office by Justice Khosa. In his inaugural speech, the Honorable Chief Justice announced that he too would like to build a dam and retire the national debt; a dam against unnecessary delays in litigation and retiring the debt of pending cases. This hints at a change in the approach of the apex court- from judicial activism to active judiciary and thus the start of a new era. The decision to revive the tax signifies that the Supreme Court, with Justice Khosa at the helm, is looking to distance itself from legislative and executive affairs- exercise separation of powers- and instead divert its focus upon ‘getting its own house in order’. The mobile top-up tax was suspended under Article 184(3) in public interest. However, the presence of legislation under the Provincial Tax Acts raises the question whether the people were really aggrieved due to the tax and therefore makes intervention under Article 184(3) doubtful.

Moreover, as cited by Justice Khosa, the suomotu directive was taken on basis of a social media post which may have been false pretenses. The Supreme Court’s new course of action to direct its energy upon fixing the judicial system will be of greater benefit to all segments of the population. Lastly, the restoration of mobile top-up tax may be a decision unpopular among some segments of society, but, it is enshrined in legislation formulated by democratically elected representatives in national and provincial assemblies. If the public is truly aggrieved, channels of law may be pursued by forming advocacy coalitions and pressure groups to demand change in legislation. Exercise of suomotu powers leaves public interest to be solely interpreted by the Honorable justices. In this case, the said ‘public interest’ stemmed from social media which Chief Justice Khosa himself was regretful to recall.

[1] Reinstatement of mobile top-up tax was announced by the Supreme Court in a verdict on April 25, 2019.