Last week, after countless wrongful convictions and unjust deaths of women and non-Muslims, the democratic forces in Pakistan got together to demand an end to it all. The demands to abolish Shariat Courts, repeal the Blasphemy Laws, and to denounce the Federal Shariat Court’s attack on the Women Protection Act of 2006 were made, reiterated, and supported through press statements, conferences and demonstrations by nation-wide grassroots organizations yet the mainstream media did not cover any of it.
You saw the first such statement here last week issued by the Insani Huqooq Ittehad (IHI), and the latest was a demonstration in Islamabad where even in terrible weather, over 200 people came out in support of the statement issued by Joint Action Committee (JAC) but no mention of it was made by the media.
The JAC statement is quoted below:
‘We, the members of the Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights Lahore (JAC) and Women’s Action Forum are deeply concerned by the Federal Shariat Court’s verdict on 22.12.2010, that declared four clauses (11, 25, 28 and 29) of the Women Protection Act 2006 as unconstitutional. While the clauses may appear to make no substantive difference to the law the implications will be far reaching as by striking down sections 11 and 28 the verdict insidiously reintroduces the over-riding effect of Zina and Qazaf Ordinances which the WPA had removed. It also confuses the issue of separation of rape from zina that the WPA had established. The verdict of the FSC will certainly cause confusion in the administration of criminal justice.
‘The FSC’s verdict is both political and anti-women. In order to expand its own dwindling powers and encroach upon the jurisdiction of the higher Judiciary as well as the powers of the Parliament the FSC has used WPA (and by extension women, the most vulnerable section of society) as the means to pursue its objective. This attempt by the FSC to extend its jurisdiction beyond that envisaged by the Constitution of Pakistan is evidence of the insecurity of FSC and their keenness to gain greater power and influence through subjective interpretation of the Constitution and law which on the face of it, is unreasonable, malafide and unjust.
‘The preoccupation of the FSC is with procedural requirement of the WPA or other legislative instrument. This has little or no nexus with the scope of the court whose jurisdiction is only to determine whether a law or the provisions of a law is repugnant to Islam.
‘This is unacceptable to us and is indeed contrary to the vision of Quaid –e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
‘The Joint Action Committee and WAF urge the Federal government and all four provincial governments who are respondents to this petition to challenge the verdict and ensure that the administration of justice in our country does not deteriorate further and result in intensifying problems of the public in general and women in particular. We expect a show of courage and integrity from the governments.
‘WE DEMAND THAT ALL PARALLEL JUDICIAL SYSTEMS INCLUDING THE FEDERAL SHARIAT COURT AND THE COUNCIL OF ISLAMIC IDEOLOGY BE IMMEDIATELY ABOLISHED.
In case the governments do not come forward the civil society will play its legitimate and expected role in Pakistan.’
The above statement is issued by the the following organizations:
AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Ajoka Theater Workshop, All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, ASR/Institue of Women Studies, Aurat Foundation, Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Community Support Concern, Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD), Democratic Women’s Organization, Education Foundation, Gender Development Organization, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, International Rescue Committee (IRC), Justice & Peace Commission (MSLCP), Labour Education Foundation, Labour Party of Pakistan, Lok Rehas, Lok Sujag, National Commission for Justice & Peace, Nawa-e-Khawateen, Pakistan Christian National Party, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Punjab Naujawaan Mahaz, Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE), Shirkat Gah, Simorgh, South Asia Partnership (SAP), War Against Rape, Women Action Forum (WAF), Women Workers Helpline, Working Women Organization, Commission for Peace and Human Development, Caritas Pakistan Lahore.
For more information on this isuue, check this web page: Baaghi (The Rebel)
The above organizations have, over decades, worked for the democratic rights of women, minorities, workers and other dis-advantaged population groups. Together, these grassroots organizations and their constituencies have fought and won many battles. The introduction of Women Protection Act in 2006 is one such gain. As well, the same population groups have fought religious fanatics by opposing the blasphemous Blasphemy Laws, by supporting rights of workers/peasants/domestic-workers in their daily struggles. And, indeed, these same people have supported the rights of media workers in Pakistan.
The media workers attended the event/s but were unable to get their reports past the desks of their employers. To view the abhorrent role of Pakistani media Dons, check this information released by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ): Pakistan 2010: 19 Media Workers Killed, 327 Wounded, 1500 Retrenched.
I end this with a comment made in a Yahoo discussion group by a wonderfully brave person who has waged a life-long struggle for democratic and human rights of people in Pakistan. ‘It is quite sad that the demo was hardly shown on the media, despite so many friends braving the weather. Yet if a few dozen clerics get together, we see constant clips on TV.’