Altaf Hamid Rao,
Mirpur: Azad Jammu Kashmir Population Welfare Minister Dr. Mustafa Bashir said on Wednesday that a bill for legislation against the trend of early child marriage could be moved in Azad Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly after due consultation with all concerned stake holders to discourage the trend.
He was addressing seminar titled “ Consultative Meeting for Child Marriage Restraint Act” held at AJK’s metropolis under the auspices of the Population Program Wing of the Ministry of National Health Service (NHS) of Pakistan with the collaboration of the Population Welfare Department of Azad Jammu Kashmir government and the UNFP.
Secretary Population Welfare of AJK government Raja Muhammad Razzaque, senior officials /experts from Ministry of National Health Service including Ehsan ul Haq, Director, Moulana Qazi Mahmood ul Hassan, Abdul Ghuffar Khan, Brig. (Retd) Akhtar Hussain Shah, Director General of state-run Kashmir Institute of Management (KIM), Prof. Ibrar Ul Haq, Chief Instructor KIM, Mufti Naveed and leading ulema and religious scholars also addressed the seminar, largely attended by the experts from various nation-building state run institutions including seasoned academics (both male and female), health experts, medicos, population welfare planning experts from various parts of Pakistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Addressing the seminar, AJK Population Welfare Minister Dr. Mustafa Bashir reiterated the resolve of AJK government to give result-oriented performance in streamlining the population welfare and control program in line with the earnest need at the national level including AJK with the coordination of the global institutions like the UNFP, he added.
The minister underlined that Azad Jammu Kashmir feels pride over its much-lesser population growth rate of 1.6 percent as compared to overall 2.4 percent prevalent growth rate in Pakistan. “Despite this overall population growth rate, the AJK government is determined to reduce the prevailing population growth rate to maximum extent”, he added.
Dr. Mustafa Bashir emphasized that we could achieve the laurels to this direction provided we move for self-reformation sincerely in letter and spirit in the larger individual and collective interests for the nation and the country.
In his address of welcome on this occasion, Secretary Population Welfare Department of AJK government Raja Muhammad Razzaque Khan warned that rapidly increased population in Pakistan had become a permanent threat to the progress and prosperity of the country. He continued that we could not follow the path of the due uplift in the prevailing arrival of unbridled population.
Razaaque pointed out that it had become the popular general trend and opinion the world over that the world could not move ahead to reach the destination of required progress unless it secure the identical progress and prosperity.
Seeking immediate vibrant steps by all stake holders to overcome the rapidly increased population in the country including AJK, the Secretary Population Welfare underlined that if the ongoing heavy rate of growth of population continued in Pakistan, the current 210 million population will go to double during next 30 years. He pointed out that in other countries, the prevailing period of doubling of overall population growth is 60 years.
Strongly suggesting individual and collective role to overcome the increased population in the country which is already facing severe financial crunch, the AJK Secretary Population Welfare said that it had emerged a general opinion that the trend of small age / child marriages shall have to be discouraged and minimum official age for marriage shall have to be determined through formal legislation by the legislative bodies of the country including AJK for implementation of the proposed Child Marriage Restraint Act.
Raja M. Razzaque thanked all the participants for gracing the seminar through joining heads as consultative meeting for moving ahead, through consultation with all stake holders, especially the Islamic Ideological Council and Ulema / Mushaikh Council of AJK and other recognized religious bodies of the teachings of Islam for moving ahead for ultimate formal legislation in the Legislative Assembly of AJK to this direction.
It may be added that since Sindh Assembly has already passed the Early Child Marriage Restraint Act in 2013, several of the participants of the moot suggested the promulgation of the Act by the federal and provincial governments besides the AJK government.
Speaking on this occasion, veteran religious scholar Moulana Qazi Mahmood ul Hassan strongly suggested that the proposed legislation in AJK about early-age marriage should be exercised primarily keeping in view the teachings of Islam. He continued strongly suggesting that Islamic Ideological Council, Ulema Mushaikh Council and Other recognized Islamic religious bodies of Azad Jammu Kashmir should be consulted for their due recommendations in line with the teachings of Islam before launching the bill for legislation over the issue of child marriage in Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
“We shall have to secure guidance from all aspects of the teachings of Islam vis a vis exercising any legislation about the determination of age for marriage”, he emphasized. The moulana also urged for discouraging the trend of late-age marriages – since the late age marriages also led to produce the non-healthy child, he observed by referring to the Islamic teachings as well as advise of the medical experts as well.