Mr. President, we request you to recall the legacy of Mohtarima Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and her tireless efforts to improve the lot of Pakistani women, towards the goal of women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal (Women’s Action Forum – WAF) Pakistan expresses its extreme concern at the following recent events and reported Government moves, which have gravely negative implications for Pakistani women.
WAF Pakistan is shocked, horrified and outraged at the appointment of Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri as a federal Minister. This is the man who is on record as having actually defended the barbaric and inhuman crime of burying women alive as “a traditional custom”. Zehri also threatened, on the floor of the Senate, Senator Yasmin Shah, who had the courage to speak out against the heinous crime. WAF is of the opinion that such beliefs reflect a blatant flouting with impunity of Pakistani law, according to which this heinous crime is murder with premeditated intent – a cognizable and non-bailable offence, which carries strong punishments. It is also a violation of the 1973 Constitution and the teachings of Islam.
WAF Pakistan is outraged that despite evidence demonstrating the involvement of Sattar Umrani and Fateh Muhammad Umrani (PPP Balochistan stalwarts) in these killings, the Acting Chairman of the Senate, Senator Jan Muhammad Jamali refused to condemn the killings, and the police investigating this case appears to have reached unsatisfactory conclusions. WAF salutes the brave local reporters who brought this news to public attention, as well as the national media and civil society activists following it up. We are extremely concerned to note that they are now receiving open threats, and we call upon you and your Government to provide them effective protection.
WAF Pakistan further condemns the appointment of Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani as a federal Minister, and then being given the all-important portfolio of Education. Please recall that Mr. Bijarani is the MNA who headed a jirga in 2006, which made the decision to give as compensation 5 little girls (aged 2-5 years) to settle a feud between two warring tribes. Hearings about this crime even went up to the Supreme Court. Despite assertions to the contrary, WAF is in factual possession of documentary evidence.
Such a person as Mr. Bijarani is not fit to head the Ministry of Education, as he cannot understand the need to ensure equal educational opportunities for girls, or to develop and implement progressive education policies and programmes or forward-looking curricula.
We strongly condemn these two appointments and request you to revoke them.
A Minister for Women’s Development has not yet been appointed. WAF is strongly opposed to the consideration of appointment of a JUI/F candidate or any other conservative individual for such a sensitive portfolio. You have a number of good options for this post. There are many committed and progressive individuals, such as Senator Rukhsana Zuberi, and MNAs Ms. Fauzia Habib, Ms. Nafisa Shah, Ms. Bushra Gohar, who understand, subscribe to and advocate gender justice, equality and women’s human rights.
Mr. President, we recommend that you kindly re-read the PPP and the JUI/F Election Manifesto sections on Women, before you decide to allocate the Ministry of Women’s Development portfolio to JUI/F or any other conservative party or individual. Just to quote a couple of excerpts from the PPP manifesto: (1) “We promise to give high priority to empowerment of women and ensure their equal rights” (p.2); (2) “The PP commits to its sons and daughters of Pakistan an education system that enables a brighter future than that of their parents” (p.11); (3) “The Party will take institutional initiatives to prevent crimes against Women in the name of tribalism, such as honour-killings and forced marriages” (p.13).
WAF Pakistan reiterates its support for, and expresses solidarity with all those Ministers and Advisors you have appointed, who are progressive, forward-looking and committed to women’s rights, such as Ms. Sherry Rahman, Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Ms. Shazia Marri, Ms. Sassui Palejo, Ms. Tauqir Fatima Bhutto, Ms. Farzana Raja, and others like them. WAF welcomes Sherry Rahman’s statement of Nov12 reiterating PPP’s commitment to women’s empowerment.
In view of the gender equality enshrined in Article 25 (and several others) of the 1973 Constitution, and of Pakistan’s legally binding commitment to international instruments, including the UN Charter of Human Rights, CEDAW and CRC, as well as Pakistan’s acceptance of the challenges of the MDGs (2000-2015), it is imperative that the Minister for Women’s Development be a progressive, forward-looking human rights advocate and worker, with a demonstrated track record.
We sincerely hope that you will urgently address the above concerns, and that you will respond to and take action on this letter in the positive and constructive spirit in which it is written.