PESHAWAR: Women working in various fields have expressed concern about their liberty and freedom to work which they fear would be misinterpreted as un-Islamic by the Hasba law enforcers.They were commenting on the Hasba law recently passed by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government in the province. Under the controversial law an institution of Hasba will be established headed by a ‘mohtasib’ who will be working to ‘propagate virtue and prevent vices’.These women said the ‘mohtasib’, who would be delegated vast powers under the Hasba law, might misuse his authority and interfere with the life and work of working women by misinterpreting ‘Nahi un Al-Munkir’ or preventing vice.
“The ‘mohatsib’ can pester working women coming late from offices as he will possibly misinterpret any activity as unethical,” said Shahida Parveen, a journalist associated with a local newspaper.Provincial Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam has said that women’s rights will be protected under the Hasba law, but the women interviewed by Dawn fear they will be losing their personal liberty.”It is a strong possibility that Hasba force and ‘mohatsib’ will harass the working women on different pretexts. I fear a time will come when women will not be allowed to go out for work,” said Ms Parveen.
“If the Hasba law is going to be handled the same way the MMA has treated the Shariah law, which was passed in 2003 but not implemented in the province, then I have no fear whatsoever about this law,” said one working woman on condition of anonymity.Momina Arifeen, working for an NGO on women issues, said: “I feel my public and private life might not be secure once the Hasba department is established.”She pointed out that NGOs already had a bad image in the eyes of the conservative society and the religio-political government and said that women working in different sectors could be targeted for doing un-Islamic activities like holding seminars in which both men and women take part.
“Anybody can take revenge on a woman worker for rivalry and can file a complaint against her. By the time she clarifies her position enough damage will have been done to her repute,” said Uzma Mehboob, a lawyer. “Anyone can file a complaint with the Mohtasib and accuse a working woman of indulging in un-Islamic activities,” she added.
“I fear my personal freedom will be curtailed if, suppose, any one from the Hasba department tells me to cover my face or brands any of my activity un-Islamic,” said another working woman.Sitara Imran, who runs a shelter house, feared that the Hasba officials may treat the working women like the Taliban did when they ruled Afghanistan in 1996.
She alleged that the MMA government of clerics was already against the women working in the social welfare sector and said that the attitude of the Hasba staff to them would not be different. Rafia, another working woman, however, expressed no such apprehension. “I am least concerned about the Hasba law. When the MMA came to power I thought they would treat us like the Taliban but they have done no such thing even though they passed the Shariah law three years ago. It is all done for political mileage,” she said.