A Project of the American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society

President Pervez Musharraf On NGOs And Muslim Extremists

Pakistan Times

June 25, 2005

President Pervez Musharraf has drawn a parallel between NGOs and Muslim extremists for having contributed to tarnishing the image of the country. Speaking at a New Zealand Foreign Correspondents Club meeting in Auckland, he said that Mukhtaran Mai was put on the ECL with a view to frustrating the designs of those who wished to use her for propaganda against Pakistan. He said he was hurt when Pakistan was singled out as a country where violence against women was widespread. It is true that rape cases are a reality, but its magnitude is being blown out of proportions. There are very few such cases and certainly not more than reported elsewhere in the developing world, and that too in the most backward and remote areas of Pakistan. The irony, however, is that the people at the top of the social pyramid, the educated class, the intellectuals or the intelligentsia both Mandarins and Resistants have not and are not performing their rightful duty of providing adequate leads to the overwhelming illiterate and immensely religious the hoi polloi. They are rather trying to create eddy currents of different magnitudes in fields, which are not conducive to such forms of energy. These stars are trying to impose non-religious Western ideas, philosophies that are incomprehensible to the asses. Out of this bunch, quite a lot have joined NGOs because of unemployment, and are being used to promote the interest of the foreign donors. Similar is the case with a few of Madarahs that get foreign funding and are used by those who wish to settle their score in Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf is quite candid in acknowledging the reality of honour killings, Karo Kari, implications of Hudood Ordinance. In Pakistan when a man takes the life of a woman and claims he did so because she was guilty of immoral conduct, it is called an honour killing, not murder.

The honour killing is often accepted by the community as well as the State's judicial system as an acceptable motive and a legitimate defence for murder. It should, however, be borne in mind that the practice of honour killings has a long genealogy. It is linked to the emergence of patriarchal social structures across Europe and Asia within which the honour of the family and the community came to be inextricably bound with the modesty of its women. As a matter of fact, the present world is male-dominated, therefore the men manipulate the laws. The degree of domination, however, depends on the backwardness of the society. According to historical and anthropological studies, the killing of women to restore male honour has also been taking place for centuries in the agrarian societies such as China, Middle East, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece Morocco, Italy and Spain etc. Once English common Law perceived women as chattel and, therefore, defined adultery as a crime against property. And even today when adultery is no longer a crime in countries such as Britain or Australia, men killing their wives are able to rely on the law and sexual provocation to plead mitigating circumstance in their defence. (Passion and Insurrection in the Law of Provocation published in 1997 by Leader-Elliot). By quoting these lines, it is not the intention to justify such acts; but at the same time those who try to portray Pakistan as the worst place on earth are also wrong. In backward areas of Pakistan, in remote villages of Sindh, Punjab and tribal society of Balochistan, the reality of woman as a piece of property or a commodity is reflected in the ways in which society continues to dispose of her body. She can be offered as a compensation for damage to life and property. She can also be given as blood money to compensate for murder; and in some cases to settle debts. Under the cover of Karo Kari men kill innocent women to settle old vendettas, to acquire land, to secure money to pay off debts, to be freed from the obligation of paying back debts, to get rid of an unwanted women and to have a second wife. But such things are not confined to Pakistan only, and efforts are being made to emancipate women but within the cultural milieu of Muslim society. It is a matter of record that Islam gave unprecedented rights to women ranging from social matters to property, which were never thought of before the advent of Islam. Women in Pakistan were already facing enough problems, but to make things worse General Ziaul Haq introduced Hudood Ordinace in 1980s, with the result that majority of women booked under the law do not get justice. The evidence suggests that after the Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in late 1970s, Pakistan became the front-line State, and religious zealots from all over the world came to or were brought to Pakistan to wage Jihad in Afghanistan.

And the US and the West facilitated them. These were the circumstances and the environment when the religious lobbies in the country used their clout to get such laws passed. Of course, it suited late General Ziaul Haq to perpetrate his rule by using the communist threat. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in his speech at Aligarh University in 1944 had made it emphatically clear when he said: No nation can rise to the highest glory unless your women are side by side with you. We are the victims of evil customs. It is crime against humanity that our women are shut up in the four walls of the house as prisoners. Unfortunately, the founder of the nation left us too soon, and the forces that had opposed Pakistan took remerged to dominate the society, and started interpreting Islamic Ideology and Islam according to their whims. Logically speaking, only the Founder of the Nation was qualified to interpret ideology of Pakistan, and no other person regardless of his religious status had the authority of prerogative to interpret. President General Pervez Musharraf is a forthright person; he accepts that malaise of honour killing exists in Pakistan, and that problem has to be addressed. In Sindh, all cases files where honour is mentioned as the reason for murder since 1994 have been reopened for review. The National Commission on the Status of Women established in 2000 has also announced that violence against women is on the top of its agenda, and that honour killing in particular will be a focus of attention in its recommendations for legal reform. Meanwhile, the commission has submitted its report, and amendment to the constitution would be taken up at a opportune time. These are, indeed, the steps in the right direction. Pakistan Government under the stewardship of President General Pervez Musharraf has made it possible that thousands of women are today part of Local Governments (from Union Councils to District Councils); they are also Members of the Provincial Assemblies and Parliament. Furthermore, by accepting the demand of the minorities for joint electorate, he has restored their status, which was undermined by Zia regime by holding elections on separate electorate basis. The status of women would soon be restored through an amendment to the Constitution. Women, however, should not relax, and must take a united stand for having a rightful share in the Government and in all fields of national life.

FAIR USE NOTICE. This document may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. NGOWatch is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of NGO accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.