ISLAMABAD: A landmark bill seeking to deter all forms of domestic violence against women has reached a serious deadlock following heavy resistance by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F). Claiming the bill undermines Islamic values, the party on Friday announced it would fight “tooth and nail” against it.
Strong resistance by opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), had forced the Government on April 4 to defer another bill, introduced in 2009, which sought heavy jail terms for those involved in violence against women.
“We cannot adopt a bill which a ditto copy of a bill on women,” observed JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, when lawmakers under the leadership of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senior leader Syed Khurshid Shah, met to develop consensus on the issue.
Fazl claimed the bill promotes western culture and values rather than Islamic ones. “NGOs continue to promote the culture which keeps women away from Islam and that is not acceptable to us.”
The JUI-F Chief termed it an effort to destroy the dignity of women in Islam and urged followers to stand united against those who wanted to impose Western culture in Pakistan.
“We know women’s rights better than the PPP… Western culture cannot be promoted under the pretext of protection in Islamic states,” maintained the JUI-F Chief.
On Thursday, lawmakers across party lines failed to evolve any consensus to amend a controversial clause of the aforementioned bill passed by the National Assembly in 2009. Since the bill was not adopted by the Senate in 90 days, rules stipulate it can only be passed in a joint sitting of the Parliament.
PPP MNA Yasmeen Rehman had tabled the bill earlier stressing the institutionalisation of measures required to protect women and children from domestic violence.
Despite the PPP Senior Minister’s efforts, the opposition could not be convinced into contributing positive suggestions so that the bill could be tabled once again before the joint sitting next week.
PML-N, the top opposition party in the National Assembly, also dragged its feet over the bill when MNA Khawaja Saad Rafiq implied that external forces had stakes in the passage of its controversial clauses. He refrained from explaining his thoughts further.
The Government has long wanted to move the overdue Domestic Violence Bill, 2009. The opposition however maintains that the bill cannot be passed by the Parliament until further amendments are made to its clauses.
The lawmakers will now hold a meeting over the issue on Monday.
Friday also witnessed opposing protest rallies outside the Parliament by both human rights activists and Islamic parties. Rights activists chanted slogans in favour of the passage of the bill while religious activists raised slogans opposing it. Harsh words were traded by both sides during the demonstrations as they also raised slogans against each other. The protesters were eventually dispersed by the local police.
More in PakistanMalala’s story: A 13-year-old’s struggle against terrorism