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Women empowerment will go on: Musharraf

The president defended the Women's bill against criticism from the Islamists, saying it was needed to reform Pakistan's cruel rape laws.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 15:48 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Enthused by the passage of a bill that seeks to protect women, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said his government would continue with progressive legislations to end other "cruel practices" against women.

"The movement we initiated to empower and protect women in 2004 will continue," Musharraf said in a television address to the nation on Wednesday.

He defended the Women's Protection Bill against criticism from the Islamists, saying it was needed to reform Pakistan's "cruel rape laws" that was weighed heavily against women.

The Islamists have accused Musharraf of trying to "secularise" Pakistan allegedly under the "US pressure".

The critics say the Hudood Ordinances, passed in 1979 by former military dictator Zia-ul Haq, were based on the teachings of the Quran and should not be disturbed.

Refuting this, Musharraf said: "There has been no violation of the Quran or the Sunnah in this bill."

The National Assembly Wednesday passed the Women's Protection Bill, which seeks to reform Pakistan's rape laws.

According to the Hudood Ordinances, women victims of rape were required to produce four male witnesses to the offence, failing which they were imprisoned and charged with adultery.

Under the new law, rape has been taken outside the religious domain and made an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) where scientific and circumstantial evidences would be taken into account to investigate the case.

Musharraf said the Hudood laws were unjust and he felt "not just sad, but embarrassed at the cruelties inflicted on women by Pakistani society".

He said he would try to amend the system of "triple talaq", under which a husband can divorce his wife by simply repeating the word "talaq" (divorce) three times to his spouse.

The Nation said 188 members in the 300-member assembly voted for the Women's Protection Bill including 31 parliamentarians from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP-P) of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif abstained from voting while the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the Islamist coalition, boycotted the voting.

MMA chief and leader of the Opposition, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, warned that Pakistan would become a "rape zone" under the new law.

However, he backed out from his earlier threat that the MMA lawmakers would resign to protest against the Bill.

First Published: Nov 16, 2006 15:48 IST