By Mahvish Akhtar, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
On August 21st, 2006, a bill was presented in the National Assembly of Pakistan for the amendment of the Hudood Ordinance put in place in 1979 by the late President Zia Ul Haq. MMA, an alliance of six Islamic organizations, had always been against the amendment of this bill. They claimed that the laws in the bill are Islamic and a protection of the Islamic system. They also claimed the bill is a protection for women against wrongdoing.
To the accusations that because of this bill many innocent women are in jail and have been convicted of crimes they did not commit, the MMA says that the problem lies in the governmentâ€™s application of the laws and not the laws themselvesâ€”since the laws are directly from the Qur`an and the Sunnah of the Last Prophet (s).
However, the other opposition party, PPA, is in favor of amending the bill. The Criminal Law Amendment, the Protection of Women Bill of Rights, was presented by the PPA. This group widely agrees with the governmentâ€™s position on changing the Hudood Ordinance. They claim that the changing of the Hudood laws is not a violation of Islamic laws, for Islamic laws protects women and the Hudood Laws do not do so in a comprehensive manner.
The MMA leader in the August 21st session tore their copies of the Amendment and staged a token walk out. This was to show the government that they are strictly opposed to the changes being made. There was also an exchange of angry words among the opposition parties. The speaker adjourned the meeting under those circumstances and left the matter to be taken care of the next day since no solution was being reached with the expressions of controversy.
The bill was supposed to be presented on August 18th 2006 but could come through because each bill to be presented needs the presence of a quorum of at least one fourth of the total house seats (86 seats out of the 342 seats). However, on Monday all the members showed up and the house seats were full.
The changes in the bill are for zina (adultery and rape) and qazf (false allegation of zina). The bill states that there should be no punishment on zina bil raza (consensual fornication). It states that these acts are private and not a matter for the state.
The government stated in its defense of the bill that it is not going against the laws of the Qur`an since the Qur`an and Sunnah did not state any punishment for these crimes. Mentioned punishment: the State has the right to practice tazir which means that the Muslim state can decide the punishment for these crimes. The government also said that Pakistan was built for the sole reason so that Muslims can live freelyâ€”and its constitution is based on the Qur`an. No changes will be made that violate this belief.
Speaking to a press conference, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said that no law in Pakistan is against the laws of the Qur`an and Sunnah. He added that the bill of womenâ€™s rights is not under the pressure of any sources outside the country. In fact, he added, the changes are for the betterment of our own country and the residents therein. He also said that the bill also has an amendment that states that women who are involved in a rape case will be protected form the media and their identity will not be disclosed to the public and media.
He emphasized that to make Pakistan a successful country we need to end terrorism and extremism; the prime minister of Pakistan said that these two things are very dangerous for the well being of our country. â€¢