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PPF Seminar on Ordinances Violating Women Rights

Date: December 11, 2003
Location: Karachi

Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organized a Human Rights Day seminar for journalists titled Misusing the Hudood, Qisas and Diyat Ordinances to Violate Women’s Human Rights on December 11, 2003, at its Vicky Zeitlin Media Library in Karachi.

The speakers at the seminar Sentor (R) Iqbal Haider, Former Attorney General, Former Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Council Member, HRCP, Mrs. Rashida Patel, President, PAWLA, Dr. Abdul Bari Awan, Member, Working Committee, War Against Rape (WAR) and Mr. Zia Awan, President, Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid condemned the abuse of laws-Hudood, Qisas and Diyat in a way that violates the human rights and termed the ordinances as “un-Islamic, undemocratic and unnecessary” and stressed the need for their repeal.

Former federal Law Minister and Attorney General Iqbal Haider said that these laws were imposed by undemocratic and un-Islamic way of law making and therefore they “ought to be repealed.” He said that the laws were basically discriminating from all aspects, particularly against women and minorities. “These ordinances are in violation of human rights and basic human values.” Mr. Iqbal Haider, who is also council member of HRCP, said that many laws which were, in fact, not in consonance with Islamic injunctions, were framed using the name of Islam.

He flatly rejected the assertion by “mullahs” that two women witnesses were equal to one male witness in Islam. he said that the Shariah Act passed in 1991 was also not in accordance with the Islamic teachings. Besides, he said, Blasphemy Law needs amendment.

He said that he had prepared a bill during his holding of the office of federal law minister in 1993 to at least dilute the impact of Hudood Ordinance. But, he said, that the PPP government did not hold a power majority at that time and failed to get the bill passed because of its allies’ refusal to support.

He regretted that the parliamentarians are not allowed to discuss issues like honour killings. Quoting the officials figures he highlighted the loopholes in Qisas and Diyat Ordinance and said that only about half of the registered cases are disposed off and less than 15 percent of the accused are convicted.

He said that 70 to 90 percent accused are acquitted for want of evidence or unavailability of witnesses. He said that 3003 cases were registered from January 1997 to May 2003, of which only 1615 were diposed off. He added that 1243 accused were a
Dr. Abdul Bari Awan & Zia Awan
cquitted and only 372 were convicted.

“Even after conviction, in most of the cases, the convicts manage to escape punishments taking advantages of loopholes in this ordinance,” he said.He emphasized the need for curtailing the discretion of courts to award lenient punishments to convicts. Besides, he demanded that the convicts of honour killings must not be granted remission.

Mrs. Rashida Patel, President PAWLA, regretted the delay in proceedings of cases for judges’ unavailability or other reasons and said that the cases involving violation of women’s rights proceed for years due to which women lose courage to go on with their cases.

She said that raped women are often asked irrelevant questions which are a cause of mental torture to the women seeking justice. She deplored that sometimes judges ask victims to marry their rapists and termed it extremely unjust attitude.

Besides, she said that raped women are pressurized and offered money to withdraw cases. She lamented successive governments for their failure to increase the number of courts and judges and said that more courts, judges and staff are needed to reduce delay in cases proceedings.

She observed that raped women seeking punishments to the rapists have to face a bitter environment as everyone around regard them as prostitutes. She disclosed that raped women are not welcomed by their parents and instead are taken by people for prostitution.

She said that the marriage cases must first go to family court and then, if needed, to magistrate or session courts. She demanded that Qisas and Diyat must not be allowed in cases of honour killings.

LHRLA president Zia Awan said that not only discriminating laws but positive laws are also harming women’s human rights because of non-implementation.

He viewed that the judiciary was conservative and not progressive and said it was due to malfunctioning of the judiciary that people do not report cases of rape.

He slammed political parties for not taking up the human rights issues and said the political parties touch only the popular issues. “Without political will no change in society can occur and just replacing the laws will not work.”

He deplored that Access to Justice Programme funded by Asian Development Bank did not cover jails and told the participants about the condition in which prisoners were living. He said 70 percent women experience physical abuse but nobody bothers to take care of women languishing in jails.

Abdul Bari Awan, Member Working Committee, WAR, Fazal Qureshi, Chief Editor PPI and Samina Ishaque, Director PPF also spoke.

List of Speakers
Mrs. Rashida patel
Mr. Zia Awan
Lawyers for Haman Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA)
Sentor(R)Iqbal Haider
Former Federal Minister for Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs
Government of Pakistan
Dr. Abdul Bari Awan
Member Working Committee
War Against Rape (WAR)