Clerics test govt’s resolve to protect women from violence

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  • Powerful religious parties denounce law protecting women from abuse as ‘un-Islamic’
  • Denounce execution of Mumtaz Qadri, say govt buckled under western pressure to hang killer of former Punjab governor

 

An all-parties conference convened by Jamaat-e-Islami and attended by powerful religious groups asked the government on Tuesday to retract an “un-Islamic” law that gives unprecedented protection to female victims of violence.

The Women’s Protection Act, passed by Punjab Assembly last month, gives legal protection to women from domestic, psychological and sexual violence.

It also calls for the creation of a toll-free abuse reporting hot line, women’s shelters and district-level panels to investigate reports of abuse and mandates the use of GPS bracelets to keep track of offenders.

Domestic abuse, economic discrimination and acid attacks made Pakistan the world’s third most dangerous country in the world for women, polls show.

But since the law’s passage, many conservative clerics and religious leaders have denounced it as being in conflict with the Holy Quran, and the Constitution.

On Tuesday, representatives of more than 35 religious parties and groups came together for a conference called by the Jamaat-e-Islami and condemned the women’s protection law as un-Islamic.

“The controversial law to protect women was promulgated to accomplish the West’s agenda to destroy the family system in Pakistan,” read the joint declaration issued at the end of the concrescence.

“This act … is redundant and would add to the miseries of women.”

ISLAMISTS THREATEN PROTEST MOVEMENT:

The gathering warned the government of launching a mass protest movement if it does not withdraw the pro-women legislation by March 27.

They maintained that all official announcements about a liberal, secular Pakistan and against Islamic injunctions were a revolt against the constitution and betrayal of the founding fathers of the country.

Presided over by Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan chief Senator Sirajul Haq, the moot was attended by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, JUI-Sami chief Maulana Samiul Haq, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan President Sahibzada Abul Khair Zubair, Professor Sajid Mir, Allama Awais Noorani, Hafiz Husain Ahmed and Majlis-e-Wahdat al Muslimeen leader Allama Ameen Shahedi.

QADRI’S EXECUTION:

The radical clerics also lashed out at the government for executing Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, saying the government had hanged Qadri to “please the enemies of Islam and a small secular lobby in the country”.

The joint declaration said that despite the media blackout of Qadri’s funeral, the large turnout at the event showed that the country’s religious right had rejected the government stance.

The moot demanded the government ensure complete implementation of the constitutional and legal requirements of Namoos-e-Risalat Act and expedite the decisions of all blasphemy cases.

Addressing the participants, Sirajul Haq said that the entre responsibility of the present affairs of the Muslim Ummah lay with the rulers “who are slaves of the US and western powers”.

He said the Women Protection Act was an attack on the Muslim family system.

“In a country established in the name of Islam, there is open talk of free sex and use of liquor. The country is facing financial, moral and ideological corruption,” he said, adding that it was the duty of the religious leadership to come forward and protect the Islamic ideological character of the country.

In his address, Maulana Fazlur Rahman said that being a government ally did not mean that he was bound to endorse all government actions.

He suggested the formation of a team at federal level for law making. He said that a bill similar to the one passed by the Punjab Assembly had been passed in South Africa in 1998 and also in India in 2005.

Maulana Samiul Haq said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer for talks to the clerics was aimed at weakening the protest movement.

Samiul Haq claimed that Salmaan Taseer’s family had pardoned Mumtaz Qadri in return for the release of Shahbaz Taseer but the government had executed Mumtaz Qadri in haste after this development.

SPIRITS DAMPENED:

The passage of the new law was welcomed by rights groups but spirits have since dampened as conservative voices have increasingly called for its retraction.

On Monday, Maulana Fazlur Rehman said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had promised him at a meeting that he would address the reservations of religious parties.

“Nawaz Sharif heard our reservations against the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act 2016. He promised to amend the law so that it doesn’t contravene the teachings of the Holy Quran,” Fazl told journalists at his residence.

Earlier this month, the Council of Islamic Ideology, a religious body that advises the government on the compatibility of laws with Islam, declared the Women’s Protection Act un-Islamic.

A prominent lawyer has also filed a petition in the top Sharia court asking it to strike down the law.

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