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Musharraf unlikely to shed uniform

The president said he derived strength from his uniform to amend the controversial Islamic laws, which no premier had dared to touch.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2006 17:41 IST

In an indication that he would not relinquish the post of army chief in the near future, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said he has derived strength from his uniform to amend the controversial Islamic laws, which no leader including a woman premier had dared to touch.

As rights groups stepped up their campaign in support of the Women's Protection Bill in Pakistan, he told reporters here that he is the only ruler since 1979 who had the courage to amend the Hudood Ordinance which has draconian provisions for rape victims.

"No one touched this (law) since 1979 because it is most difficult. If I were not in uniform, I would not (have) touched this issue," he said defending the importance of his continuing as Chief of Army and President.

Referring to Benazir Bhutto, he said the laws were not touched even when Pakistan had a woman as Prime Minister.

Expressing his government's commitment to reforming Pakistan's rape laws through the Women's Protection Bill, he said, "We need a consensus."

"We don't want reforms which lack consensus. We don't want to create political turmoil. We are dealing with liberals and extremists on this issue. I am walking a tight-rope and I think I am a good balancer," he said.

The Pakistan government had sent the bill to cold storage under pressure from Muttahida Majlis Amal which threatened to quit Parliament and Assemblies if the Bill was not modified as per their wishes.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, noted moderate Islamic scholar Dr Javed Ahmed Ghamdi resigned from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), saying the government had bypassed the constitutional body on the Protection of Women Bill.

"I put in my resignation during a council meeting. The chairman of the council and all my colleagues asked me not to resign, but my decision is final and irreversible," Ghamdi was quoted as saying in the Pakistani media.

He said the committee's proposal to make adultery an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code was against Islamic injunctions.

He asserted that the Quran conferred equal weight to evidence given by women and men, but changes being brought by the government in the Protection of Women bill at the instance of clerics deprived women of that religious right.

The government formed a separate committee of ulema to review the bill with the stated purpose of ensuring it was in conformity with Islamic injunctions.

Ghamdi said this was a breach of the CII's jurisdiction, since the very purpose of the council is to ensure that Pakistan's laws do not conflict with the teachings of Islam.

"The CII is a constitutional body. And after this bypassing from the government I don't want to serve in it anymore," he said, and urged other CII members to resign too.

Ghamdi said the amendments in the bill proposed by the ulema committee were against the injunctions of Islam.

By incorporating the ulema's suggestions in the bill, the government was in fact keeping the status quo on the discriminatory laws against women, he said.

The ulema committee's amendments kill the basic essence of the bill that was passed by a parliamentary select committee, he said.