Abolish Pakistan’s Shariat Courts and Repeal Blasphemy Laws

The demand to abolish Shariat Courts and to repeal/amend Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan is coming into shape as religious right attempts to take back the few gains made in the past years by the democratic forces in Pakistan.

In the past week, the religious right made two moves: one, to wipe out Women Protection Act 2006, and the other to ‘blasphemise’ MNA Sherry Rehman for her bill to repeal/amend the bloody Blasphemy Laws. The Women Protection Act of 2006 is a small but important gain to provide minimal protection to women charged for adultery/rape and other forms of sexual abuse under the discriminatory Hudood Ordinances of 1979. As well, the right also lodged a legal challenge against MNA Sherry Rehman for her bill to repeal the Blasphemy Laws, and opposed another bill for the repeal of Blasphemy Laws tendered by MNA Bushra Gohar.

This confrontation between the religious right and Pakistan’s democratic forces is inevitable yet a grave prospect. It is grave because Pakistan’s religious right is fully armed in each province, and for years, employs violence to acquire political agreement. On the other hand, the democratic elements represented by the ‘civil society’ have prided themselves on waging fair and non-violent struggles through peaceful and legal means.

Pakistan’s ‘civil society’ will need all of our support against the violent, unjust and extra-legal tactics and policies of religion-based formations that are spoiling to gain supremacy in Pakistan.

Uddari Weblog supports the following statement made yesterday by Insani Huqooq Itehaad (IHI):

‘We, the members of civil society, express our serious reservations about the Federal Shariat Court’s attempt to revert the Women’s Protection Act’s Clause 11, 25, 28 and 29 back to Hudood Ordinances. Another alarming aspect of the FSC judgment is its attempt to expand its jurisdiction and undermine constitutional jurisdiction of High Courts and the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

‘We demand from the government to immediately file a petition against this Declaration. We also demand that the Parliament immediately initiate legislative measures to not only repeal all discriminatory laws against women and religious minorities (such as Blasphemy Laws, Hudood Ordinances, Qisas & Diyat and all clauses under Sections 298 of PPC that single out and persecute a religious minority) but also to abolish all parallel judicial systems.

‘We would like to state that women’s and human rights groups struggled for more than twenty-seven years against the controversial Hudood Ordinances. A plethora of evidence was gathered through research to show the anti-women nature of Hudood Ordinances and their massive misuse particularly Zina Ordinance. Thousands of women languished in jails for years under Zina Ordinance. The acquittal rate of women charged under this law — over ninety percent – indicates the mala fide and false nature of most of the charges against them.

‘In response to the consistent demand for the repeal of Hudood Ordinances, Parliament finally introduced the Women’s Protection Act in 2006 to redress the violation of women’s rights under these laws. The recent study of National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) has shown that Women’s Protection Act has brought tremendous relief to women’s lives. Currently there’s hardly any woman who is in prison under the Hudood Ordinance.

‘We regret that Federal Shariat Court has attempted to reverse the gains made by Women’s Protection Act. We believe that the institution of Council of Islamic Ideology and parallel judicial structure of Federal Shariat & Appellate Shariat Courts was part the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s political agenda to use religion to legitimize his own dictatorial rule. It is regrettable that despite the consistent demand from civil society organizations and women’s and human rights movements for the repeal of all forms of parallel judicial system, successive civil governments failed to take any concrete action in this regard. We strongly demand that all citizens of this country should be treated as equal, under one law and one judicial system.

‘In view of the history of Federal Shariat Court giving anti-women decisions and blocking the protective legislation for women and religious minorities, we demand that the government should immediately challenge the decision of Federal Shariat Court in the Supreme Court of Pakistan and abolish Federal Shariat Court and parallel legal systems. We also demand that the Constitutional Reform Committee of the Parliament and Supreme Court look into the serious constitutional implications of the FSC verdict.

‘We express our resolve to frustrate all attempts to reverse the gains of Women’s Protection Act. We hereby announce the launch of a nationwide movement to dismantle all parallel judicial systems in Pakistan. We call upon all the democratic and progressive forces in the country to join the citizens’ movement to safeguard the rights of people of Pakistan and to preserve the vision of Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan in which the state would not use religion to run its business.’
Organizations & Alliances:
1. Insani Haqooq Ittehad
2. Women Action Forum
3. Aurat Foundation
4. Rozan
5. Pattan
6. Sangi
9. Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi (ITA)
10. CPDI
12. Shirkat Gah
13. The Researchers
14. Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust (SNPET)
15. Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE)
16. National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)
Human Rights Activists:
Farzana Bari, Naeem Mirza, Marvi Sirmed, Beena Sarwar, Peter Jacob, Harris Khalique, Salima Hashmi, Khawar Mumtaz, Karamat Ali, Fauzia Yazdani, Sirmed Manzoor, Babar Ayaz

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