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FAMILY LAWS ORDINANCE OF 1961 Until the promulgation of the Family Laws Ordinance by the government of President Muhammad Ayub Khan in 1961, there was no legal requirement for the registration of nikhanamas-marriage contracts-and no legal obligation that a husband, in exercising his right to divorce, had to strictly follow the contract It is not surprising that in a society in which less than one-tenth of the female population was functionally literate and in which the social status of women was very low, the Koranic injunctions about the rights of women entering marriage were not observed The Family Laws Ordinance was one of several measures adopted by the martial-law government of Muhammad Ayub Khan to deal with this situation The Ordinance was based on recommendations made by a long-forgotten Commission on Marriage and Family Laws The Commission’s report, presented to the government in 1956, had suggested the compulsory registration of nikhanamas, adoption of a minimum age below which both men and women were considered legally not competent to enter marriage, limitations on the husband’s right to divorce, and restrictions on men entering multiple marriages The Family Laws Ordinance stipulated that all marriage contracts had to be registered with the Union Councils; that the decision to divorce had to be announced by the husband to an Arbitration Council, which included representatives of both husband and wife; and that the decision by a married man to take another wife must be presented to and approved by the Arbitration Council The Ordinance also dealt with another thorny issue-the question of inheritance by the widow of the property left by the husband The provisions of the ordinance were not popular with conservative Islamic groups After martial law was lifted in 1962, a privatemember bill was introduced in the National Assembly asking for its repeal The bill would have been adopted but for the strong opposition of a powerful coalition of women’s organizations

Some political historians believe that the political agitation that succeeded in dislodging Muhammad Ayub Khan in 1969 was fueled in part by the perceived wrong done by the ordinance

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