Time to take a stand

Published: March 17, 2016
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WMA General Secretary Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhari addressing at a press conference. PHOTO: INP

WMA General Secretary Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhari addressing at a press conference. PHOTO: INP

Now is the time for the government to show some steely resolve over the matter of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act (PPWVA). Now is the time to speak with absolute clarity and fortitude as to the primacy of democratically-elected institutions. And now is the time to possibly definitively confront the clerical cohort seemingly bent on usurping the role of parliamentary bodies. The Wafaq-ul-Madaris Al-Arabia (WMA) is the largest federation of Islamic seminaries and it has rejected the committee announced by the Punjab chief minister, tasked to look into the reservations of the WMA in respect of the PPWVA. In rejecting the committee, the WMA has instead called for the Punjab government to “take practical steps to immediately amend the Act”. This flies in the face of every democratic principle in the book, and is effectively a demand that the Punjab government bows to the will of the WMA, ignore parliament and submit a revised Act for WMA scrutiny and approval.

This is an unacceptable demand. The WMA is an unelected body seeking to overturn an Act that was unanimously passed by the Punjab Assembly on the grounds that parts of the Act are in some yet-to-be-defined way ‘un-Islamic’. The religious bodies have threatened to organise street protests if the Act was not withdrawn by March 27. It is not for unelected bodies to hold the gun of civil disorder to the head of government simply because they happen to have ideological and doctrinal differences with the elected legislature. It is for the elected bodies to do the converse and assert their primacy in matters legislative. If not, why bother to have a parliament or provincial assemblies at all?

If ever there was a group overdue for legislative protection, it is the much-abused women of Pakistan. To assert that Islam already makes provision for the protection of women is undoubtedly true. Unfortunately, it is a truth revealed more in the breach than the observance. The protection of women is a duty of the state and the PPWVA is a step in the right protective direction. Time to take a stand — and if not, open this government to the contempt of the rest of the world.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • curious2
    Mar 18, 2016 - 1:16AM

    The people of Pakistan have demonstrated through voting that they don’t favor the religious conservatives .. but the govt of Pakistan is still pandering to their wishes. It’s a betrayal of the voters and shows a distinct lack of leadership/courage. Just because a small group is loud doesn’t mean that the tail should wag the dog.Recommend

  • Babbarsher Khan
    Mar 18, 2016 - 1:39AM

    Well written, hope governments at both provincial and federal level also show some spine!Recommend

  • Junaid
    Mar 18, 2016 - 9:27AM

    Todate, all the maulanas coming on TV criticizing the Act have not raised a single specific point to substantiate their contention that the Act is Un Islamic in any way. Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 18, 2016 - 12:28PM

    Absolutely correct.Recommend

  • Mohammed Sattar
    Mar 18, 2016 - 1:34PM

    Its about time something like this bill was passed to protect women in Pakistan.
    Anyone who organisis Street protests which almost always end in death and destruction of property should be arrested and thrown the book at them. Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Mar 18, 2016 - 4:32PM

    Now is the time for the government to show some steely resolve over the matter of the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act (PPWVA). Now is the time to speak with absolute clarity and fortitude as to the primacy of democratically-elected institutions. And now is the time to possibly definitively confront the clerical cohort seemingly bent on usurping the role of parliamentary bodies.

    Your call is uncalled for Sir and will only further polarisation in the country. Pakistan has a patriarchal culture which is based on centuries old traditions of the natives in the land, both hindus as well as muslims and those who migrated from the middle east and the Iranian plateu. A change in the paradigma though may be desirable in modern times can only be realised peaceflly through a consensus and a referendum and not by the simple act of parliament. The elected body has not the mandate from the people for such a change which without any doubt will influence the private lives of the citizens.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • G. Din
    Mar 18, 2016 - 5:33PM

    Indubitably correct! Stand up to these bullies and be counted.Recommend

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