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Senate debate on women’s bill begins

ISLAMABAD: The Senate took up for debate the Women Protection Bill (WPB) on Wednesday with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) reiterating its stance that its MPs would resign if the Hudood laws were amended and at the same time offering the government dialogue on the bill. The WPB was presented in the Senate on Wednesday for debate by Law Minister Wasi Zafar. There were clear indications that the government would get the bill through the Upper House of parliament after one more day of debate today (Thursday). The bill, called Criminal Laws Amendment Bill 2006, was recently passed by the National Assembly. Leader of the House Barrister Wasim Sajjad delivered a well-articulated speech in an apparent effort to allay the fears of MMA senators. He stressed that the bill was in line with Islamic teachings and procedural changes were made to protect women’s rights, which were being misused in the name of Hudood laws.

The Senate witnessed a marathon speech lasting more than four hours by Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed with breaks for prayers of ‘Zuhr’, ‘Asr’ and ‘Maghrib’. It may be termed as the longest speech made by any senator in the Upper House since its revival in 2003. During speeches, the government and MMA senators exchanged hot words and continuously blamed each other. Ministers and female senators belonging to the treasury benches thrice objected to the remarks made by Professor Khurshid Ahmed and other MMA legislators and asked the chairman to expunge them. The opposition members belonging to the Democratic Alliance did not take part in the debate. They simply listened to the arguments from both sides.During the debate, the MMA came down hard on the government for changing the Hudood laws and accusing it of working on the western agenda to turn the country into a “free sex zone”. They vowed to protect the Hudood laws inside and outside parliament “with force”.

The government rejected all arguments of MMA senators regarding the bill and said it was in line with the Holy Qur’aan and Sunnah. The religious alliance was accused of politicising the issue. The treasury senators claimed that the government wanted to amend the man-made laws as they were being misused against women. “The Hudood laws still remain intact in the bill,” they said. The government senators pointed out that the Hudood laws, protected under Section 5 of the Hudood Ordinance, are still intact. Only discriminatory laws on rape were differentiated from “sex with consent” while putting rape under the purview of Pakistan Penal Code. Professor Khurshid Ahmed said the government brought changes in Hudood laws at the whims of the west to fulfil their agenda. He said the Women Protection Bill had everything but women’s protection – neither in its substantive part nor in its procedural part. He said it was an attack on Islamic culture and its socio-economic system. It was passed on the pressure of the west.

He said the five crimes which fall under ‘Hadd’ cannot be changed and the people of Pakistan will never allow anyone to change those laws that were given in the holy Qur’aan. He said it was not the Hudood Ordinance that caused sufferings to women but it was the police system that caused the problem. He said the bill was not Women Protection Bill but a bill to promote a secular culture in the country on the pressure of the United States. “This bill is part of an international conspiracy and central part of it is to change the Islamic laws and repeal Hudood laws but we accept the challenge and are ready to contest it inside and outside the parliament,” he said. Barrister Wasim Sajjad said fornication has been included in the bill as prescribed by the Ulema Committee to check any illicit relations between a man and a woman and the punishment as prescribed by the committee has been suggested. However an effort has been made to minimize the misuse of this clause. He said in case of rape if there are sufficient evidence to try the case under Hadd it will be dealt so. “But in case the judge feels that there is no sufficient evidence to try the case under ‘Hadd’ it will be tried under penal code making sure that the culprit does not escape punishment if proved guilty,” he said.

He said the bill is a first step in a long journey to protect women and the government is committed to bring more laws soon to protect the rights of women, which were being denied to them. The parliamentary leader of the MMA, Senator Gul Naseeb Khan, suggested the government to resolve the sensitive issue through dialogue. The proposals of Ulema Committee should be incorporated in the Women Protection Bill, he said He urged that religious parties opposed the bill for three reasons. First, this bill did not provide protection to women. Second, this bill was un-Islamic. Last, this would promote the image of a ‘free-sex state’. In reply to MMA senators’ objection, Minister of State for Law Shahid Akram Bhinder said the Hudood Ordinance never came for debate in the parliament for last 27 years. It is for the first time that it has come before the parliament. He said Hudood Ordinance is controversial and man-made which could be amended. He pointed out that the Federal Shariat Court in its judgement in 1989 stated that putting rape cases in Hudood laws was against Islam and they could be tried under the PPC.
Source: The News

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