Another Bill Goes Missing: “The Protection of Family Life and Wedlock Bill, 2023”

A calling attention notice submitted with the Senate Secretariat, bearing the signatures of PPP Senators Saleem Mandviwala and Taj Haider, raises concerns about the non-approval of “The Protection of Family Life and Wedlock Bill, 2023.” A bill that was approved by both houses of parliament several months ago has gone missing, according to the notice.

The bill was initially passed by the National Assembly on July 27 and sent to the Senate on July 30, 2023. Subsequently, it was approved by the Senate on August 7 and sent to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs for further processing, with the intention of reaching the Prime Minister and then the President for final approval. However, the bill has not progressed beyond this stage, and its current status is unknown.

This bill aimed to safeguard the family life of government employees working under the administrative control of the Federal Directorate of Education, in line with the provisions of articles 25, 34, and 35 of the Constitution.

The bill’s objectives and reasons statement highlights that Article 25, along with its clause (3), guarantees social and economic rights and social justice to protect women, family life, and children. Article 34 emphasizes the full participation of women in national life, and Article 35 pertains to the protection of the family, which necessitates a conducive working environment for spouses during their economic struggle as they participate in national life.

The bill also addresses the challenges faced by spouses when employment or residential issues force them to live separately in different cities. This separation is not only economically impractical but also poses obstacles to the growth and educational opportunities of their children.

As a result, the bill advocates providing an opportunity for spouses serving under the administrative control of the Federal Directorate of Education to be absorbed, if interested, after their lengthy service in the Islamabad Capital Territory on a one-time basis. This proposal aligns with the exceptional treatment outlined in Clause (3) of Article 25 of the Constitution.

The bill further references the federal government’s previous wedlock policy, which focused on transferring and posting spouses at the same station during their employment assignments. However, this policy hindered their professional and career development, as they risked repatriation to their parent departments due to constraints related to posting or transfer on a deputation basis, especially when the other spouse was employed in or a resident of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

This case is not the first instance of a bill disappearing after approval by both houses of parliament, as a similar incident involving a bill moved by PML-N Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui occurred in June 2022. This bill sought to separate the judiciary and the executive by limiting the judicial powers of assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, and commissioners. Despite approval from both houses, the bill never reached President Arif Alvi for his assent.

In summary, the disappearance of the “The Protection of Family Life and Wedlock Bill, 2023” adds to a growing list of bills that have encountered similar fates, raising questions about the legislative process and the fate of important bills once they reach the final approval stage.

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