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Women's bill: Musharraf keen, ministers cautious

Musharraf told the federal cabinet not to bow to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's pressure to shelve the bill that aims to amen Hudood Ordinances.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 15:36 IST

Keen on pushing the Women's Protection Bill in parliament that reconvenes on Thursday, President Pervez Musharraf has been advised caution by some of his key ministers who think the opposition parties would thwart its passage and make political capital out of it.

At a meeting he chaired Wednesday, Musharraf told the federal cabinet not to bow to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal's (MMA) pressure to shelve the bill that aims at amending the Hudood Ordinances enacted in 1979 during the regime of Zia ul-Haq, who wanted Pakistan to be governed by Islamic laws.

The Hudood laws prescribe stringent punishments for crimes like rape and adultery, but their enforcement is weighed heavily against the women complainants.

Sources told Online news agency that the president asked the cabinet members not to be swayed by threats by the MMA and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to quit parliament if the bill is passed.

"If they tender their resignations from the assemblies in the event of the passage of the bill, let them do so and do not be worried about it. It will reinforce the government writ," sources quoted Musharraf as saying, Daily Times newspaper reported.

Behind the opposition's threat of resigning from parliament, and possibly provincial legislatures, is the unstated anxiety of Musharraf, who hopes to use the legislatures as electoral colleges to get himself elected president for a second term.

The president told the cabinet that if the bill was not passed the MMA would exploit it for political gains.

The right-wing Islamist alliance has emerged as the prime opponent of the bill and is rallying the clerics and the conservatives to oppose the bill.

Caution to Musharraf came from Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid, who opined that the bill should not be passed in haste and all parties should be taken on board.

"The MMA should not be sidelined all at once as it will trigger a crisis in two provinces where they are in power. It is not easy to hold by-polls there too," he was quoted by Online.

Rashid is not alone in taking such a line. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi, who had unsuccessfully piloted the bill earlier, is also known for his opposition to the legislation.

Another report said the government is not clear whether or not to re-introduce the bill during this session of parliament, indicating that it would have problem tackling the political backlash it is bound generate.

Musharraf began his drive against the Hudood Ordinances by promulgating an executive order on June 1 this year after which an estimated 1,300 women were released from jails across Pakistan.

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 15:36 IST