Compromise on Hudood laws criticized
By Our Reporter
LAHORE, Sept 12: Expressing outrage at the ‘political expediency’ demonstrated by the government over the women’s protection bill, human and women’s rights bodies on Tuesday accused it of reneging on its promise. They said women had campaigned against the discriminatory laws for 25 years and proved them fundamentally flawed. Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jehangir said that the manner in which the government had dealt with the issue of women’s rights was disappointing.
“The so called women’s protection bill was a farcical attempt at making the Hudood Ordinances palatable. In the first place, the implications of the ordinances went far beyond discrimination and persecution of women on the plea of morality. “For instance, the law prescribed punishments which were inhuman and allowed for evidence of male Muslim witnesses for application of Hadd punishments. However, women accused under tazir punishment of adultery were its main victims. There were ample examples of victims of rape being imprisoned under accusations of zina.” She said the bill had addressed none of the concerns. In addition, the government had agreed to replace Section 9 of the draft bill by subjecting the interpretation of the ordinance according to the injunctions of Islam.
“Such open-minded jurisdiction granted to an already cowed-down judiciary would result in authentication of the most conservative form of religious interpretation. It would also be detrimental to the rights of non-Muslim citizens, who might not subscribe to Islamic principles. The addition of Section 9 could also undo the amendment made to the law in 1996 in the form of abolition of Punishment of Whipping Act for abolishing mandatory public whippings for the crimes of zina and zina bil jabr.” The HRCP chief noted that the amendments introduced earlier by the clerics within the ruling party had stiffened conditions for compliant of qazf. By keeping the Hadd punishment of zina bil jabr in the ordinance while moving the tazir punishment to the Pakistan Penal Code, the authors of the draft had created confusion in deciding the jurisdiction of the appellate court. This would only benefit the accused in zina bil jabr, she said.
Reiterating the HRCP’s demand for repeal of Hudood Ordinances, she said the government should refrain from using the issue of women’s rights to further its own interests rather than making any real effort for the improvement of their lot. The Women Action Forum working committee was of the view that the government’s political machinations with the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal would result in amendments that would be even more barbaric. By acceding to the MMA an extraordinary advantage the government had subverted all the constitutional bodies such as the Council of Islamic Ideology and the National Commission on Status of Women and ignored the decision of the cabinet committee concerned. All parties in parliament were invited to participate in the parliamentary select committee but the MMA decided to boycott it. By conducting closed-door negotiations the government was pandering to a group of religious obscurantist who were known for their rabidly anti-women stance and thus bartering away women’s rights, it said.