By: Jawad R Awan
LAHORE – The much-reviled women protection law, passed by the Punjab Assembly on February 24 and signed by the governor on February 29, has not so far been enforced, official sources said yesterday.
According to the common practice, an enactment signed by the constitutional head of the province after the passage by the provincial legislature comes into force immediately with a gazette notification. But this legislation is an exception because of a “note” mentioned in this law’s gazette notification which says the law will not come into practice unless the provincial government notifies or allows it.
The provincial government wants to make the law functional in different phases by enforcing it in some regions of the province as a test case in order to determine the reaction from common people and political forces, particularly the extreme right-wing parties, official sources say.
However, the provincial government anticipating backlash of the women protection law managed a note in the gazette notification which empowers it to enforce the law according to its own timing, they added.
Punjab Minister Raja Ashfaq Sarwar told the paper: “The gazette notification of the women protection law was issued on February 29, but it would come into practice after the approval of the provincial government or when the government allows it.”
Leaders of 32 religious political parties, including JI, JUI-F, JUI-S and JUP, yesterday warned the government of launching an agitation campaign on the pattern of 1977’s Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) movement if the government did not withdraw the law till March 27.
Protection of Women against Violence Bill, 2015, has declared physical violence, abusive language, stalking, cyber crimes and other offences like these against women a crime in the province.
A toll-free universal access number (UAN) is to be launched to receive complaints while district protection committees are to be established to investigate complaints filed by women. Centres are also to be set up for reconciliation and resolution of disputes.
Protection officers will be liable to inform the defendant whenever a complaint is received. Offering resistance to protection officers will be punishable by up to six-month imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 500,000. Once a complaint is received, it will be updated into a database to be set up soon.
Filing a false complaint or levelling false accusations can be punishable by up to three months in jail and/or a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs 100,000. The law will not allow aggrieved women to be forced out of their houses. The defendant can be made to leave the house for two days and several other protections are ensured.
One important clause in this law is that defendants can be cuffed with GPS tracking bracelets if ordered by the court. Those attempting to remove or tamper with the tracking bracelets will be jailed for up to one year and fined between Rs 50,000 to Rs 200,000. Defendants will not be allowed to apply for an arms licence or procure weapons, whereas weapons already registered in their names will have to be submitted to the court.