FSC decision


The Federal Shariat Court has declared sections 11, 25, 28 and 29 of the Protection of Women Act, 2006 un-Islamic and unconstitutional and directed the federal government to take necessary steps to amend the impugned laws in conformity with the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Reacting to the decision, National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has maintained that the judgment seeks to reverse the minimum gains the women had won after a long struggle for justice. It has appealed to the government to take a firm stand against this retrogressive judgment.

The controversial 1979 Hudood Ordinance and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) are widely seen as the relics of the Zia period. It is maintained that these are the handiwork of a military ruler who sought legitimacy by posing as the defender of an extremist version of Islam not practiced .by the majority of the Muslims in Pakistan. The controversial Ordinance combined with other laws militating against women caused a stir among the enlightened sections of society. The Women Action Forum joined later by other organisations struggled hard to retrieve womens rights. The Protection of Women Act was widely seen as a step towards removing the imbalance created by Hudood Ordinance and other laws that violated gender equality. Later, the present government introduced the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, related to sexual harassment, which was supported by all major parties in the Parliament with the exception of religious parties.

Interestingly the judgment by the FSC came on the day Prime Minister Gilani was telling a womens gathering in Islamabad that the protection of womens rights is a part of the PPP manifesto and that his government which had appointed the first ombudswoman would ensure that the law against harassment is implemented and the process is properly monitored. Lawmaking is the exclusive prerogative of the Parliament. There is a need on its part to ensure that the problem created by the judgment is resolved in the light of a moderate version of Islam that recognises gender equality. This is needed to make Pakistan a genuinely modern Islamic state as visualised by its Founding Fathers.