Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is reported to have repealed an anti-women clause in the Hudood law, 1979 legislation against extra-marital sex based on Islamic Sharia (law).
The direct beneficiaries of the ordinance reportedly signed by Musharraf would be 1,300 women detained without trial for minor offences and domestic disputes across the country. The clause revoked forbade those arrested and charged under the law from getting bail.
While major opposition parties are still silent on the ordinance, the move has been welcomed by Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a party dominated by Mohajirs -- the migrants from India when the subcontinent was divided in 1947.
The amendment is likely to be criticised by Islamist parties, who consider the Hudood law as holy.
When the ordinance was signed is unclear. The News Sunday said it was introduced "as recently as last week."
"No formal official announcement about incapacitation of the severe clause has been made. It has been left to legal experts to interpret," the newspaper said.
The Hudood legislation was promulgated in 1979 by the then President Zia-ul Haq as part of his campaign to introduce Islamic jurisprudence and eventually make Pakistan Nizam-e-Mustafa, or a country ruled by God.
However, the newspaper observed that the women arrested under the law "have been rescued from enormous social evils and family nightmares they were plagued with" by being behind bars.
The move, as demanded by human rights organisations, would, however, raise new social and administrative problems for women and children from broken families and with no means to fall back upon once out of jail, it warned.