Amendments to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961
In December 2021, the National Assembly in Pakistan introduced two amendments in sections 4 and 7 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961. Both these amendments relate to Shia school (Fiqh-e-Jafaria). Under the first amendment a childless widow of a Shia husband is given inheritance right in immovable property. The second amendment clarifies the Shia law on talaq (divorce) by providing that the husband must pronounce Arabic words (seegha) in presence of two witnesses to make divorce effective. It further provides that the pronouncement of talaq (divorce) shall not be effective if it is done “jokingly or under anger, intoxication, insanity, duress or coercion of any kind”.
Both amendments provide that in case of dispute, the parties may have a recourse to “a court of competent jurisdiction or by approaching the Mujtahid-e-Alam from the panel maintained by the Council of Islamic Ideology.” Mujtahid-e-Alam is defined as “a juris-consult, religious scholar or doctor of Shia school of thought well versed with Shariah having international repute and of such recognition.” The decision of Mujtahid-e-Alam shall have a status of an award under the Arbitration Act 1940.
Contributed by Zubair Abbasi.