ISLAMABAD: As critics from religious groups and parties make headlines with their opposition to the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act 2016, one cleric has come forward to support the law instead.

Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) chairperson Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Ashrafi on Monday said those elements that used to call for banning girls’ education had no connection to Islam.

“These people are speaking in ignorance, but the women protection bill will assist in ending violence against women,” Mr Ashrafi said. “There is no point in the criticism by some scholars that this bill will distort the family system of the country”.

While speaking to a delegate of the PUC Women’s Wing and women seminary students on Monday, the liberal cleric said that instead of criticising almost all the reformist laws, ulema and the country’s religious leadership should come forward with progressive suggestions.

“I would call upon the clergy to play a responsible role for girls’ education, to help eradicate other social ills like dowry and so on from the country,” he said.

Mr Ashrafi said that since it was established, PUC has been making endeavours and raising its voice for women’s rights.

PUC is also one of the few religious councils that did not protest the execution of Mumtaz Qadri.

On the day of the execution, Mr Ashrafi said the “execution of Mumtaz Qadri [was the] implementation on laws of the state”, and it was the government’s responsibility to ensure the protection of its citizens and make sure the laws of the state are implemented.

He said that civilised society would be turned into ashes if killing and warfare was allowed on the grounds of emotion and affiliations.

Addressing women seminary students, the PUC chairperson said: “Islam does not allow men to resort to violence against women, and the teaching of Islam witness to the fact that Islam orders punishments for men who resort to torture against their daughters, wives and women of their homes.”

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2016