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Pak Govt promises more pro-women laws

PM Shaukat Aziz has said more laws designed to give better rights to women were on the anvil, in addition to the newly passed Women Protection Act.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 15:40 IST

Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said more laws designed to give better rights to women were on the anvil, in addition to the newly passed Women Protection Act (WPA), forcing a divided rightwing opposition to review its strategy of protest resignations from all legislatures.

Reports said President Pervez Musharraf, who pushed the WPA, signing it into law last Friday, is expected to announce a clutch of new measures shortly, possibly on national television.

Among the issues that are likely to be touched by the proposed legislation are socio-cultural practices in vogue in Sindh and Punjab and the practice of 'triple talaq', of the husband uttering the word talaq thrice to divorce his wife.

The government has also said that it would hold bye-elections if the opposition lawmakers resign, giving fillip to speculation that Musharraf would want to use the new electoral college to get himself re-elected to the presidency.

The confusion among the Islamist politicians was apparent from the resignation Monday of Sahibzada Abul Khair Mohammed Zubair, a National Assembly member and a Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) Supreme Council member.

The resignation over the Women Protection Act came even as MMA's secretary general Maulana Fazlur Rahman said that there would be a mass resistance movement against the law before mass resignations.

Rahman said in Islamabad that a decision would not be taken "in haste", even though MMA was "under pressure" from another major opposition grouping, Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD).

"We have never taken a reverse gear on the issue of resignations but will adopt a careful strategy in this regard," he said.

Zubair, who termed the legislation "un-Islamic", however, brushed aside rumours about differences within the MMA over the resignation issue.

"All the component parties of the MMA have agreed to resign from the assemblies," he was quoted in The News as saying in Hyderabad.

Zubair added that the passage of the Women Protection Bill from parliament was "a tragedy and this measure would turn Pakistan into a "free-sex" zone.

There is confusion in the government's rank as well. Even as Aziz on Monday chaired a cabinet meeting that 'congratulated' Musharraf on the WPA, Chaudhuary Shujaat Hussain, chief of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid), has been repeatedly shown on PTV meeting top clerics.

Taking an adverse note of this, The News said in its editorial on Tuesday: "A major part of the reason for this, one has to say bluntly, is the ruling party's refusal to tell the clerics that the matter is now closed because parliament has passed the legislation and also because most Pakistanis in general, and women in particular, have welcomed it.

One can only wonder what the motive of the PML-Q chief - who has taken a lead role in this - can be in this regard."