THE small matter of who should run a few women`s crisis centres has created a larger problem that can easily be resolved. Reports say Punjab is reluctant to take charge of the 12 centres that have been devolved to the province under the 18th Amendment. Sources in the Punjab government say the province finds it difficult to justify these centres when it is running a number of shelters for women in need under the banner of the Darul Aman. These homes are meant for women caught in all kinds of legal battles who are admitted to them on court orders. They have frequently been reported on in the media, and it has to be said that much of the coverage has been negative. The Darul Amans, or `houses of peace`, have routinely been found to be overcrowded and mismanaged, apparently creating a need for more shelters. The women`s crisis centres, which can let in applicants without court orders, are helpful in filling the void. It makes no sense for anyone to declare that any facilities that offer refuge to women are surplus to the requirement here.
This is one aspect at the core of the issue. Another dimension that has invited strong criticism is that this matter of crisis centres reflects the general attitudes of governments in Pakistan towards solving `women`s issues`. If the thread of the current debate is anything to go by, the current rulers of Punjab enjoy not so flattering a reputation when it comes to tackling what in common parlance and without much thought are described as women-specific matters. There is no reason why the Shahbaz Sharif government should not want to dispel this impression by granting to women centres that give them protection in their hour of crisis.