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Pak hardliners push back new rape law
Rights Groups Protest ‘Anti-Women’ Ordinance
Ahmad Hassan

Islamabad: The government on Monday succumbed to the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amals pressure for renegotiating the controversial Women’s Rights Bill apparently because of the alliance’s threat to quit assemblies and provincial governments if the bill was passed without its consent.
With a team of government-appointed Ulema rejecting a number of clauses, the bill which had been finalised by the National Assembly’s select committee became ineffective and in effect stood withdrawn, and now a redrafted bill would be tabled in parliament.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and MMA secretary-general Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that his alliance had succeeded in making the government realise that it was wrong in bringing the bill to parliament without a consensus. He urged the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) not to make it an issue of ego.
However, PPP leaders expressed reservations over the development and said they would offer their reaction after details of the redrafted bill were announced.
Raja Parvaiz Ashraf, Sherry Rehman and Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the PPP said at a news conference the government-MMA agreement had made it clear that the government was not serious in protection of women’s rights and it was only interested in a public relations exercise.
They said the PPP would support the redrafted bill only if it found it in accordance with the objectives for which it had been drafted and tabled in the house.
Women’s rights group oppose the Hudood law as they say the 1979 ordinance discriminates against women and fails to differentiate between rape and adultery. Under the current law, rape victims face prosecution for adultery, unless they produce four male witnesses. The government says that this makes it almost impossible to prosecute in rape cases.
Law Minister Mohammad Wasi Zafar said on Monday that under the terms of the bill to be presented before parliament, the offence of rape would remain punishable under Islamic law. But if a rape victim does not produce four male witnesses, it would be possible for the authorities to prosecute a rape suspect under the secular penal code. DAWN & AGENCIES

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