Byline: Prof. S. Haroon Ahmed - Karachi
REFERENCE my letter of Nov 28 about a very cruel law on attempted suicide.
In 1961 I was part of a movement in England where a decriminalisation demand was led by Prof. Stengel. He proved that in England attempted suicide was a crime while in Scotland it was not, though the prevalence of attempted suicide was the same. The parliament decriminalised the attempted suicide in the same year and referred it to psychiatrists.
After coming back from Britain in 1965, I tried to write articles in the limited print media of the time that such persons were depressed and not criminals.
After a long time and after the Mental Health Act was enforced in Sindh in 2013 (SMHA 2013) and in Punjab and KP in 2015, we found it appropriate time to place an amendment to decriminalise attempted suicide. The senate committee agreed and forwarded it to the Senate chairman, who unfortunately referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). In our opinion this is the sit-in time and the CCI is the last forum to be consulted.
However, in the Sindh Mental Health Act 2013 an amendment in 2015 says (Chapter VI Clause 49-A): 'A person who attempts suicide including [... a person] accused of blasphemy shall be assessed by an approved psychiatrist and if found to be suffering from a mental disorder shall be treated appropriately under the provisions of this Act.'
There is also a contradiction here, as attempted suicide still remains in the Pakistan Penal Code, clause 325.
President, Pakistan Association of Mental Health