The Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), in collaboration with the European Union-GIZ ‘Mustehkam Parlimaan’ Project, organized a Parliamentary Roundtable on the topic of Women Empowerment: A case Study of Inheritance Laws on 22nd September, 2022 at Avari Hotel, Lahore. The roundtable was attended by around 40 participants comprising more than 14 Honourable Members of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, representatives from GIZ and PIPS, senior officers of the secretariat of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab, Secretary Women Development Department Punjab and representatives, representative from the Council of Islamic Ideology,  representatives from the Provincial Government of Punjab, as well as members of the civil society and media.

The Roundtable aimed to stimulate intellectual debate on the issues confronting women inheritance rights and the prevailing issues in Pakistan and particularly in the Province of Punjab. The main objectives of the session were to:

  1. Identify challenges and legislative gaps in order to address issues related to inheritance rights in Punjab province.
  2. Generate recommendations to address the challenges and address the issues related to inheritance laws.

The event commenced with the recitation of the Holy Quran by Mr. Wajid Aslam. Mr. Christopher Shields, Team Lead, Mustehkam Parliamaan welcomed all participants and the worthy Secretary Provincial Assembly of Punjab Mr. Inayat Ullah Lak. He thanked the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) for jointly organizing the Roundtable session and apprised the audience members of the purpose of this Roundtable was to discuss critical issues and challenges relating to women rights as a whole and specially the right of inheritance. He shared his expectations to develop a pathway to resolve these issues by coming up with the series of recommendations, that can eventually help in generating policy recommendations and legislative reforms, for the Members of the Provincial Assembly of Punjab. He was followed by Mr. Inayat Ullah Lak, the Secretary Provincial Assembly of the Punjab. On behalf of the Honourable Speaker of Punjab Assembly, he formally welcomed all the participants and thanked PIPS and GIZ ‘Mustehkam Parlimaan’ for organizing the session on such a critical and attention needed issue. Ms. Nadia Batool, Legislative Affairs Advisor, GIZ International Services, discussed the objectives, norms and context setting of the session.

Ms. Tehseen Khalid, Director (Research), PIPS, and Moderator of the session formally inaugurated the session and welcomed Mr. Inayat Ullah Lak and all other participants on behalf of PIPS and conveyed thankful remarks to Mustehkam Parliamaan, GIZ International Services and Mr. Christopher for collaboration and support.

Mr. Inayat Ullah Lak,  Secretary of Assembly of the Punjab, was invited to apprise the audience about the legal framework enacted in the Punjab province on women empowerment with specific focus on inheritance laws. He started by defining the term inheritance, which means the transferring of properties, titles, debts, rights and obligations to the legal heirs of the person upon his/her death. He told that -in the past- fictitious transfer of property by male heirs was the norm. However a lot of work has been done to ensure the rights of women in inheritance in last decade. Now NADRA is involved in one way or the other in transfers of property, which has led to ensure more transparency.

Talking about the legal framework, he told that there are two laws which are currently in place at the federal level, namely;

  1. Enforcement of Women Property Rights Act, 2020.
  2. National commission on the status of Women Act, 2012.

Similarly, in Punjab following laws are in place;

  1. The Punjab Enforcement of Women Property Rights Act, 2021.
  2. The Punjab Fair Representation of Women Act, 2014.
  3. The Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010.
  4. The Punjab commission on the status of Women Act, 2014

Mr. Abdul Rasheed Tokhai, Senior Research Officer, Council of Islamic Ideology, discussed the inheritance rights of women and equality of women and men under the Islamic laws and teachings. He discussed the shares of men and women in inheritance as per the rules provided under Islam. He gave the reference of different Quranic verses and Ahadiths regarding rights of women and their share in the inheritance. Quoting a verse from the Holy Quran, as translated,“We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured among you in the sight of Allah is one who is the most righteous of you”. Referring to the verse he said that it clearly states that men and women are born equal. He further quoted a verse from the holy Quran, as translated “Don’t let men laugh at men and women at women” which shows that Allah has discouraged all kinds of discriminations. In some other Quranic Verses Allah clearly stated that “For men and women there is a share in the property left by their parents”, “These are the boundaries established by Allah which can’t be transgressed”. The Prophet Muhammadﷺ said that “Allah has given the Rightful person his due rights” which clearly states that the deceased person cannot make an illegal will. In other words, one cannot deprive one from his legal share in inheritance through any will. In another Hadith, Prophetﷺ said that “Give the one what is due to him”. He also discussed different hurdles to women right of inheritance. In most of the cases, women forfeit their share or right of inheritance in favour of the male members of the family. Similarly, dowry is considered a replacement of inheritance in some cases. He further added that Islam has clearly mentioned the shares of men and women in inheritance, according to responsibilities and needs of each of them. It is often argued that Women are given half as compare to men’s share in inheritance in Islam. That is because they get inheritance from their parents as well as husband. He concluded on the note that Islam being a complete code of life has given equal status to women and gave rights to women when they were not even considered as human beings.

Mr. Muhammad Hanif Khan Nasar, Deputy Director (Research), PIPS, discussed about the laws and hurdles to women inheritance rights in Pakistan. He described that inheritance is an involuntary devolution of property of deceased person to legal heirs and it is applicable to both moveable and immoveable properties. All the debts, funeral expenses and testamentary disposition (i.e. will) are deducted before distributing the property of the deceased. He further added that Islamic law does not support to disinherit someone as a legal heir, either in lifetime or through will. He further added that Allah has clearly mentioned the rights of women to a specified share of inheritance in Holy Quran and these rights are duly regulated by the Pakistan’s legislation. He also highlighted the differences between distribution of Estate under Shia and Sunni schools of thoughts.

While talking about the evolution of inheritance laws in Pakistan, he discussed that during colonial period customary law was given preference over Muslim law in which Male descendants were given priority over female relations and female legal heirs could not challenge the alienation of ancestral property. He briefly discussed the different laws of inheritance enacted in sub-continent during the period of British rule, namely;

  1. The Punjab Laws Act 1872 and N.W.F.P. Law and Justice Regulation 1901.
  2. The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act 1937.

After the inception of Pakistan, these laws were replaced by;

  1. West Punjab Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1948.
  2. West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1962.
  3. The Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961.
  4. Pakistan Penal Code 1860: amended through Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Criminal Law (3rd Amendment) Act 2011, address women inheritance through following sections; Section 498A, 498B and 498C.
  5. Criminal Procedure Code 1898, amended through Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Criminal Law (3rd Amendment) Act 2011.
  6. The Succession Act, 1925.

He also discussed other laws (federal and provincial) that are relevant to inheritance rights, and some of which also address the women inheritance rights in Pakistan. He also discussed the recent law enacted in all the provinces except Balochistan, under which citizens can now apply to NADRA for their letters of administration and Succession Certificates of inheritance, without consulting the courts. However, if any objection is raised by a relevant party against  someone availing letters of administration and Succession Certificates from NADRA, the legal heirs will then have to consult the court of law.

Ms. Sumaira Samad, Secretary, Women Development Department Punjab, discussed the challenges and opportunities related to inheritance laws. She praised the significance of the event in bringing attention to the difficulties women experience in asserting their inheritance rights. She meticulously debated the factual status of inheritance laws enacted in the province of Punjab. She stated that one of the biggest obstacles to women asserting their inheritance rights is lack of legal enforcement. Later on, she emphasized on coordination among different provinces in building a narrative of gender equality which is the need of the hour. She proposed that making of rules for share in inheritance would act as a catalyst in implementation of inheritance laws. Moreover, she also reinforced the capacity building of different departments for enhancement of their efficiency. Furthermore, she cited the role of Ombudsman in removing the hurdles faced by women in different departments. She suggested long-term strategies-cum-plans that must be scrupulously designed for easement of procedures and granting of due rights to women.

Concluding the session, Ms. Tehseen Khalid thanked all the Participants, Distinguished guests and the facilitators who participated in the session and shared their knowledge and views.

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