LAHORE: Religious parties have warned the government to withdraw the “un-Islamic” Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, 2015, by March 27 or face a countrywide movement.

On the call of the Jamaat-i-Islami, leaders of 35 religious parties gathered at Mansoora here on Tuesday and held discussion on the law and condemned the steps the PML-N government had taken, what they called, against Shariah, the constitution and Pakistan’s ideology.

A joint declaration issued after the meeting said: “All official announcements about a liberal, secular Pakistan and against Islamic injunctions are a revolt against the constitution and betrayal of the founding fathers of the country.”

It further said: “The religious leadership stands united to safeguard Namoos-i-Risalat and the Muslim family system and they will foil conspiracies to make Pakistan a secular, liberal state.”

The declaration said the government had tried to negate the Namoos-i-Risalat law by executing Mumtaz Qadri to please the enemies of Islam and a small secular lobby in the country.

It asked the government to ensure total implementation of the constitutional and legal requirements of the Namoos-i-Risalat Act and expedite decisions on all cases of blasphemy.

The strong stance adopted by clerics of different schools of thought shows Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s assurance to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that the government is ready to amend those clauses in the women protection law that violated the constitution, law and Shariah, could not placate their concerns.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, who presided over the conference, said the West had unleashed a cultural attack on the Muslim world. “The women protection law is an attack on the Muslim family system and the rulers have been tasked to break it. This controversial law, execution of Mumtaz Qadri and ban on Tableeghi Jamaat entry to educational institutions are part of the international agenda. The rulers are keen to improve ties with India under foreign pressure and there are indications that the government is preparing for recognition of Israel,” he said.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman said being a government ally did not mean accepting such steps. “The government is taking anti-Islam and anti-Shariah steps under foreign pressure,” he said, suggesting the formation of a team at the federal level for legislation over the issue.

He recalled when the MMA government in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa had passed the Hisba Bill to stop violence and other un-Islamic practices during retired Gen Musharraf’s rule, the Centre had nullified it by force. On the other hand, he said, the ulema were being forced to keep silent on the women protection law.

JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq said the prime minister’s offer for talks to the ulema was aimed at weakening the movement against the government over the issue. He disclosed that Salmaan Taseer’s family had pardoned Mumtaz Qadri on safe return of Shahbaz Taseer, but the government executed him in haste.

Jamaat-ud Dawah head Hafiz Mohammad Saeed said Islam’s enemies were afraid of a nuclear Pakistan and wanted to destabilise it. “Enemies want the country to become a secular and liberal state. If the religious forces stand united the masses will rally around them against the unholy designs of the rulers,” he said.

Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen chief Allama Ameen Shaheedi, JUP president Sahibzada Abul Khair Zubair, Prof Sajid Mir, Allama Awais Noorani and Hafiz Husain Ahmed also spoke against the law.

The Punjab Assembly last month passed the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Bill. It provides comprehensive protection to women against a range of crimes. It includes abetment of an offence, domestic, emotional, psychological and economic abuse, and stalking and cyber crimes.

The new legislation introduces, for the first time, an in-built implementation mechanism through the district violence against women centres, court orders (residence, protection and monetary), introduction of GPS-tracked electronic bracelets-anklets to enforce protection orders and power to enter any place to rescue the women victims. It also encompasses cyber crimes, domestic violence and emotional, economic and psychological abuse within the ambit of ‘violence against women’ crimes.

The stated aim of the law is to ensure justice to women victims and to empower them, placing them on an equal footing with men.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2016



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