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Pakistan's Senate Approve Women Protection Bill
Relief for female rape victims
Asim Yasin (Asim)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-25 09:50 (KST)   
ISLAMABAD: The Women Protection Bill (WPB) Thursday sailed through the Pakistan's Upper House of parliament, the Senate, amid the soft-pedaling of the six party alliance of the religious party alliance Muthidda Majlis-e-Amal's (MMA) protest, and rejection of over a dozen amendments moved by different senators.

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The bill must now go before the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf for its final signing to make it an act of the parliament and to be enforced in the country.

The Women Protection Bill provides relief to women from certain laws that are framed in the name of Islam but are always being used against women.

Unlike in the lower house of the parliament of Pakistan, the National Assembly, the MMA did not stage a walkout or boycott, and fully joined the exhaustive debate even up to the last moment of the proceedings on the WPB.

After the bill was passed, a couple of MMA senators half-heartedly raised slogans of "Allah-o-Akbar, rapists must be stoned and anyone befriending America is a traitor."

Apart from MMA's apparent change of mind or strategy, other parliamentary parties stuck to the positions that they had taken in the National Assembly on the crucial legislation.

The Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP), Mehmood Achakzai's PKMAP and Awami National party supported it, while the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) abstained.

In the 100-member Upper House, a total of 48 senators of the ruling coalition were present at the time of the final passage of the bill.

At times, the debate witnessed fireworks with some PML women senators taunting the MMA speakers over their assertions. However, they were not provoked and comprehensively participated in the discussion.

MMA's tall claims to quit notwithstanding, none of its members have resigned as they seem to be dragging their feet on the issue.

The upper house of the parliament also rejected the motion of MMA moved by Kamran Murtaza to refer this bill to the Islamic ideology Council with the majority vote. The MMA could get only 20 votes and remained short of 20 vote for admission of their motion.

The PPPP, Awami National Party and other nationalist parties from Baluchistan did not support the MMA on this motion except PML (PML-N), which voted in favor of the MMA on this issue.

Taking part in the debate, ruling PML senator and eminent constitutional expert SM Zafar advised the MMA to consult the Federal Shariat Court to discover whether the bill is in line with Islam or not.

He was of the view that under Article 203 (d) of the constitution the Federal Shariat Court took suo moto notice as well, as anyone could go to the court to seek its opinion on the bill.

He also asked the MMA not to resign from the parliament as it was not time for resignation politics.

He said the bill is in line with the Quran and Sunnah and there is no amendment made in it against the Islamic laws which were still intact.

"Through this bill the government only brought procedural changes which were missing in law," he added.

PML-N's Ishaq Dar said, quoting from the constitution, that the WPB should be referred to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for an authentic expert opinion on whether the proposed legislation was perfectly according to the Hudood prescribed by the Quran or otherwise.

He said there was universal confusion whether the WPB was Islamic or un-Islamic. He said he and his party were not clear on the issue and added that the CII would take just a couple of weeks to come out with its opinion.

Nobody would have objections to approve what the CII would recommend, Dar said adding that "Ijtehad" was a continuous process. He protested that the PML-N was not invited to the consultations on the WPB.

The PML-N senator deplored that "we are taking dictation from those" who have portrayed in the world that the Hudood were against fundamental rights. He said Islam has been misrepresented at the international level and there was difference between Islam and Islamism.

The PML-N, he said, has always stood for women's rights and empowerment and that was why Nawaz Sharif as prime minister had visited some rape victims.

Muthidda Majlis-e-Amal's (MMA) Prof Ibrahim profusely quoted from the agreement signed by the religious scholars' committee and PML President Chaudhry Shujaat on incorporating amendments in the WPB and said the three points contained in the accord were ignored in the bill contrary to the government's claim.

He said the WPB was in total violation of the Quran and Sunnah, and by enforcing it the government has in fact invited people to commit sins, prohibited by the religion, while its job is to preach against them.

Prof Ibrahim said the Parliament would become "Taghoot" if it passed the WPB. "We will working to bring about revolution as a result of which neither the uniform nor the one who had worn it would remain safe," he warned.

MMA's Ismail Buledi said if the ruling M.P.s looked deep into their conscience they would reject the WPB because it ran counter to injunction of the Quran and Sunnah.

He said women who had distributed sweets on the passage of the WPB in the National Assembly were uncivilized. Ninety-five percent of the women are with the MMA while five percent, who are being fed by the United States, are against it, he said.

He demanded that the bill must be withdrawn and should be introduced only after incorporating the recommendations of the Ulema committee.

Minister for Tourism NeeloFar Bukhtiar said this bill provides protection to the women from misuse of the Hudood ordinance.

She said this bill comes from the effort of women, who have been protesting for 27 years against those laws which were only used against the women.

She said it was the government of President General Pervez Musharraf which gave the representation to women in parliament and all the institutions of the country where their presence was lacking.

Winding up the debate, the law minister took on the MMA for opposing the bill and replied to their questions, saying that the bill aimed to protect the rights of women, which were being denied to them.

He said religion should always remain separate from the government. "The era has gone when the religious parties dictate the sitting government," he added.

He denied that any Hudood law changed through this bill and said that only procedural changes were made as Hudood laws still intact, and only that the new clauses bring back to the penal code what had been put in the Hudood laws.

He said the Hudood ordinance was un-Islamic despite being used in the name of Islam.

He sees no justifications for the resignation of the MMA on this issue from the parliament, but said that the real motive of the MMA was to de-rail the democratic process in the country.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Asim Yasin

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