SOMETIMES, reform is not the answer. A case in point is the resolution unanimously passed by the Senate on Tuesday recommending that women be given increased representation in the Council of Islamic Ideology.
The strength of this constitutional body is stipulated to be between eight and 20, which must include at least one woman member. The fact that a PPP senator, Sehar Kamran, had moved the resolution was particularly curious. Only a few months ago, another PPP senator, Farhatullah Babar, had called for the CII to be disbanded altogether. Along with some other members in the Senate committee on human rights, he had denounced the CII’s misogyny and its inordinate focus on issues pertaining to women and marriage.
The CII is among several elements of a regressive legacy that continue to bedevil Pakistan. With the Constitution containing the proviso that no law shall be framed contrary to the Quran and Sunnah, a body tasked with assessing whether laws conform to Islamic principles or not, is entirely redundant.
The argument that it has only an advisory role is specious, for even in this capacity the CII has derailed or, at the very least, watered down attempts at legislation seeking to empower women. It serves as a platform for representatives from right-wing groups outside parliament to exercise influence over the process of legislation and introduce confusion in the public debate often through misinformation and flawed reasoning.
In an environment where violence against women can take the most horrific forms, the CII uses its bully pulpit — not to mention its Rs100m budget — to try and further rob women of their agency. It has denounced a minimum age for marriage as un-Islamic, rejected the use of DNA as primary evidence in rape cases and slammed Punjab’s new women’s protection law — and this is only a sampling of its recent ponderings.
Having more women on the CII is no solution: the council should be written out of the statute books.