- Punjab takes religious scholars on board regarding legislation, removes concerns, clears misconceptions
- Ulema put forward certain suggestions to improve, strength bill as per Islamic rules
The Punjab government on Saturday gave a briefing to religious scholars from all schools of thought on the Punjab Protection of Women against Violence Act, 2016 to address their concerns and clear any misconceptions regarding the legislation.
The participants agreed that the women protection act was not anti-Shariah or anti-Islam, but put forward certain suggestions to improve the bill’s strength as per Islamic rules. A report on their suggestions will now be presented to Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Presided over by CM Sharif’s Adviser Khawaja Ahmed Hassan, the meeting was attended by more than 15 clerics from all sects – Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Ashrafi, Sahibzada Saeed Ahmed Gujrati, Dr Raghib Naeemi, Allama Arif Wahidi, Hafiz Kazim Raza, Zahid Muhammad Qasmi, Maulana Muhammad Khan, Maulana Yousaf Anwar, Hafiz Zabeer, Maulana Abdul Haq, Maulana Muhammad Amjad, Pir Mehfooz and Mufti Qavi.
Senior SMU (Law & Order) member Salman Sufi gave a comprehensive presentation on the features and misconceptions of the bill.
As many as three major misconceptions – husbands requiring wearing a GPS tracked ankle bracelet, husbands being asked to leave the house for 48 hours and husbands, brothers and other male family members not being allowed to question female family members – were clarified by the government in detail.
Regarding the misconception that men would be required to wear a GPS tracked ankle bracelet whereby all their movements would be monitored, Salman Sufi clarified that it was not applicable in cases of domestic violence, rather it was only applicable in cases of grave violence like attempt to rape/attempt to murder/intimidating victim to withdraw a case/attempt to throw acid etc where the court believed that the life of the victim was at risk.
Regarding the misconception that husbands would be asked to leave the house for 48 hours and this would cause further rift, Sufi clarified that 48-hour was only the maximum limit and this time apart was only to serve as a “cool off” period. “This period can also be of a couple of hours, depending on the recommendation of the District Women Protection Committee,” he added.
Regarding the misconception that husbands, brothers and other male family members would not be allowed to question female family members, Sufi clarified that the act had no such provision and a father/husband questioning his daughter/wife did not constitute as psychological violence.
Expressing his views during the meeting, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) member Sahibzada Zahid Mahmood Qasmi said that CII Chairman Maulana Sherani had given the verdict even before having read the bill, adding that the viewpoint of one person should not be considered as the viewpoint of the entire Council. He said he had requested the CII chief to call a meeting and discuss it with every member of the Council before issuing a verdict.
The participants of the meeting developed a consensus over the fact that Islam is anti-women violence and that some elements were talking about the act in the political context but that did not translate into the act being un-Islamic.
The clerics observed that unfounded propaganda about the bill had led people to believe that clerics were anti-reform, which they said, was not true. “Islam does not condone violence and clerics are standing together to promote any measure that goes against violence against women and will give concrete suggestions to make this bill more comprehensive,” added the clerics.
Upon this, Salman Sufi said that the chief minister would constitute a committee comprising of religious scholars to further strengthen the act. He said the government appreciated the strong desire shown by the clerics to fight violence against women.
Addressing the meeting, Khawaja Hassan said this was a welcome day for everyone in Pakistan that religious scholars were sitting with the government to give their viewpoint to end this menace from society. “Today’s meeting shows that unfounded propaganda about the bill was baseless and Ulema stand beside the government to strengthen this bill,” he concluded.