Pressure to withdraw women protection law


WEB DESK: Never before in recent history had the religious parties and groups in Pakistan put up such a show of unanimity of mind and heart as they did the other day in Lahore and demanded withdrawal of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act by March 27. Otherwise, they warned, they will meet again, on April 2, and launch a movement to oust the government the way they did in 1977 and forced out of power the then Z A Bhutto-headed PPP government and in the process ushered in the decade long General Ziaul Haq-led martial law.

Latest reports suggest the government has expressed its readiness to amend the said piece of law in the light of their reservations. Will this take the wind out of the anti-Act parties’ sails? One has to wait and watch for an answer to this question. And in the meanwhile figure out what sort of democracy we are going to have if a clutch of pressure groups can overrule the mandate of an elected assembly – to which these groups also tried getting in but largely failed. Perceptibly, however, should the government cower under the lash of the religious parties and withdraw this law, it would be seen to be betraying the cause of democracy.

The fact is, that the passage of the said piece of legislation was widely hailed by the people of Pakistan, 96.3 percent of them being Muslims by faith. One may say the language of the said Act could be better worded and not become a red rag as it seems to be to some. But, in essence, what it calls for is what the majority of the people wished for. After all, what is wrong with this law if it promises protection to women against domestic, psychological and sexual violence. What’s wrong with this piece of legislation if it provides for toll-free abuse reporting hotline, shelters for women and district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse. If the idea of wearing the GPS bracelet offends someone it should be taken off the text of this law. That this law is in contravention of the Constitution of Pakistan and is part of foreign-inspired conspiracy, is a food for thought that has not many buyers.

Going by the test of the declaration issued after the religious parties’ meeting and speeches made by the participants it becomes evident that they entertain a worldview which is very different from the one that tends to obtain in the present-day Pakistan’s elected houses, state institutions and government offices. For instance, the declaration says that by executing Mumtaz Qadri the government ‘tried to negate the Namoos-e-Risalat law’ and ‘please the enemies of Islam and a small secular lobby in the country’.

It also finds the government pursuing ‘international agendas’ which includes improved ties with India and possible recognition of Israel. And, one of the participants even alleged that while the Salmaan Taseer family had ‘pardoned Qadri on safe return of Shahbaz Taseer, yet the government executed him in great haste’. While the fact is that Mumtaz Qadri had admitted that he committed the murder of governor Salmaan Taseer and was condemned for hanging by the court. Another participant was of the view that given the anti-Islam enemies’ fear of a nuclear Pakistan they want this country to be a secular and liberal state – as if liberal and secular states take no time in offloading their nuclear burden. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose party is a coalition partner of the Nawaz Sharif-headed government, blows hot and cold. He claims to have power to derail the government but would prefer that there is a committee at the federal level which should propose a legislation on this issue.

Quintessentially, all that came out of the Mansoora conference was aimed at rabble-rousing by the same very parties who did go to the hustings but did not receive the majority vote. One would wish that instead of inciting the public they would desist from making a call for a movement that can spell nothing but chaos and anarchy – that the enemies of Pakistan dearly want. Perhaps, some tinkering with the text of the women protection law should satisfy them. If not, the government may like to put the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act for national referendum and let the people of Pakistan be the ultimate judge whether or not this law is anti-Islam.

Source: Business Recorder