On February 24, 2016, the Legislative Assembly of Pakistan's Punjab province passed the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill 2015, which was aimed at tackling domestic violence in Punjab, where the government is run by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. On February 29, Punjab Governor Malik Rafiq Rajwana signed the bill into law.
The new law became controversial for Islamic clerics, and was hotly debated on Pakistani television. Some Islamic clerics saw the law as an attempt to turn Pakistan into a liberal state and away from Islamic shari'a, and as a Western measure that would undermine Eastern value systems and damage the Pakistani family unit.
The clerics' concerns seem to center on a provision in the bill that determines that if a woman calls the police in a case of domestic violence, the husband is required to stay away from home for 48 hours. This provision was debated on February 25 on the leading channel Dunya News' On the Front program. On the Front is hosted by journalist Kamran Shahid. Among the participants were: Uzma Bukhari, a member of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, who was the lead campaigner for the law; Fauzia Viqar, chair of the Punjab Commission for Women; Fareed Ahmad Pracha, deputy secretary-general of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan; and Mufti Nayeem, a renowned Pakistani Islamic scholar. During the discussion, Mufti Nayeem comments to and about the two women on the panel devolved into misogynistic insults.
From top right clockwise: Uzma Bukhari, Mufti Nayeem, Fauzia Viqar, Fareed Ahmad Paracha and Kamran Shahid
Following are excerpts from the program's transcript:
Punjab Legislative Assembly Member Uzma Bukhari: "There Are Men Who Lock Up Their Wives At Home Before They Go Out"
Program host Kamran Shahid: "Questions... are emerging about this bill regarding whether it is a step towards making Pakistan into a liberal Islamic state or a step towards a secular state... Uzma Bukhari, what is new in this bill that was not previously included in the Pakistani Constitution?"
Ms. Bukhari: "The first important point is that domestic violence was [previously] not considered an offense. If a woman was tortured, if she complained, she was told, 'madam, go home. This is a domestic matter.'"
Kamran Shahid: "You have also said that psychological violence can also not be allowed against woman."
Uzma Bukhari: "It also means, Kamran, that there are men who lock up wives at home before they go out. This is also a psychological violence."
Mufti Nayeem: "In Our Culture, The Bill... Is Actually A Formula Of [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif - Who Has Said 'I Want To Make Pakistan Liberal'"
Kamran Shahid: "Mufti Nayeem, in your opinion, is this bill a step in the right direction for women's rights according to the shari'a? The Prophet [Muhammad] and the Koran have spoken a lot about women's rights. An entire chapter [of the Koran] was revealed, the Chapter of Nisa, for women."
Mufti Nayeem: "First of all, Allah has said about women's rights in the Koran... [Reads Koranic verse in Arabic]: Treat women well. The Prophet said, 'the best person among you is the one who is good with your family members and I, too, am good with my family members.' In his speech at Hajjatul Wida, he said, I tell you not to mistreat women... In our culture, the bill that was brought yesterday [February 24] is actually a formula of [Prime Minister] Nawaz Sharif, who has said, 'I want to make Pakistan liberal'... [It was] not written by him; it is a copy [of such laws] in America and Europe..."
Kamran Shahid: "What is distasteful for the shari'a in this?"
Mufti Nayeem: "The shari'a's distaste is that if a man engages in violence, then the shari'a has fixed punishments for it. There is even a punishment in our Constitution. And I should also say that under the [new] law, a man will be expelled [from the home for 48 hours]. In the shari'a family system that we have, we have the institution of the family, which has been destroyed in Europe and America. There, nothing is known - not the place of the father, of the son, or of the wife. If [husbands] are removed [from the home] in this way, then the family system we have, the cultural system we have, will be destroyed. The Eastern way of life is different...
"And the other point is, if there is violence against women, what it its rate? What do you think? I think it is not more than half a percent or one percent. And even if it is there, the shari'a has fixed laws for it, and the Constitution too..."
Host Kamran Shahid: A Koranic Verse From Chapter Nisa Mentions Beating Wives
Kamran Shahid: "Sir, tell me one thing quickly. I have a translation [of a Koranic verse] from Chapter Nisa, that mentions pious wives who follow their husband's orders and [who] ... guard honor and property... and... women... [who] engage in negative talk and defiance. [With regard to the second, a husband must] first make them understand [their misdeeds] by words, [then must] abandon them [in bed], and, if they do not desist, then, if I am reading the correct translation... beat them a little?"
Mufti Nayeem: "Yes, beating a little does not mean that you pick up a rod and beat them, it's for a bit of warning. Even in that, the shari'a has imposed restrictions. One should not mistranslate that. See, the shari'a wants that if there is a conflict between wife and husband, there can be a resolution in a short time. If a man leaves home once [as required under the new law to stay away for 48 hours on the wife's complaint], it can never happen, in our culture, that he would agree to a resolution."
Kamran Shahid: "Uzma, the Nawaz Sharif formula to make liberal Pakistan - [does] it involve taking [aid] from America, and [taking] a photocopy of [of laws concerning women from America]?"
Uzma Bukhari: "...First, in the cultural system we are talking of, Mufti [Nayeem], violence is not just about wives. Violence is carried out against mothers, against daughters, and against sisters in this culture. You are giving us references from the Hadith and the Koran, but [what about] the people who engage in [this violence]?...
"Where did the Mufti get these facts and figures about a one percent rate [of domestic violence], when a woman's nose is chopped off swiftly, [her husband] breaks her leg and throws her into bed... And [after all,] we are talking about 48 hours."
Mufti Nayeem: "Lies, I Will Not Tolerate A Conversation Of Lies"; Uzma Bukhari: "Whenever The Issue Of Women Comes Up, Religion Is Introduced"
Uzma Bukhari: "I am talking of Punjab [province where] reported cases... are more than 40 percent."
Mufti Nayeem: "You are lying, there is no 40 percent [rate of domestic violence]."
Uzma Bukhari: "Don't talk to me like this."
Mufti Nayeem: "Lies, I will not tolerate a conversation of lies."
Uzma Bukhari: "Whenever the issue of women comes up, religion is introduced..."
Kamran Shahid: "What [about]... keeping men away from the home?"
Uzma Bukhari: "Kamran, this is what I am saying. When there is a conflict, the elders... say, keep separate from each other, once the anger subsides, sit down and talk... "
Kamran Shahid: "Mufti sahab, say quickly what you want to say."
Mufti Nayeem: "Does keeping them separate mean sending [the husband] to the police station?"
Uzma Bukhari: "Oh brother, who is sending [husbands] to the police station?... He can go somewhere else, but the woman will stay within her home."
Mufti Nayeem: "That's the point, the cops will visit the woman at home."
Uzma Bukhari: "It's the woman who makes it a home, around the clock."
Fauzia Viqar, Punjab Commission for Women
Fauzia Viqar: "According To One Survey, 60-70 Percent Of Women In Pakistan Have Been Victims Of Some Form Of Domestic Violence"
Kamran Shahid: "Fauzia Viqar, tell me whether the violence is more than half-a-percent or one percent."
Fauzia Viqar: "According to one survey, 60-70 percent of women in Pakistan have been victims of some form of domestic violence... [It] is a misconception that economic independence stops domestic violence; cultural norms come into it and [even] women who are economically independent are not safe from domestic violence."
Kamran Shahid: "[Fareed] Pracha, you oppose this law..."
Fareed Pracha: "I ask my sisters [fellow women panelists] to just listen: This is a good law in many ways; it is concerns not just domestic violence.. [It covers] violence against women, any type of violence, violence [against women] in the streets, working women whom many officials sexually abuse. There was police report that officers have developed a system of abuse against women on police duty."
Fareed Pracha: "After this law comes into force, after phoning a helpline [for women], after wearing a [GPS] tracking ring, will this violence come down? Will the family life be safe? At the UN General Assembly in 1973, such guidelines were presented... The BBC reported recently that in Britain, where there are all these laws for women... but no morality and no humanity... 81 percent of women are beaten, one every six seconds. This is a BBC report, a Guardian report..."
Mufti Nayeem: "She Won't Be Silent"; Uzma Bukhari: He "Can't Even Listen To Us"
Kamran Shahid: "Family life will be destroyed by it, divorces will not stop, domestic violence will not decrease."
Uzma Bukhari: "An impression is being created..."
Mufti Nayeem: "If you are going to allow only her to speak, why have you made me sit here?
Kamran Shahid: "Sir, I am getting to you."
Uzma Bukhari: "This is the point, [he] can't even listen us."
Kamran Shahid: "Mufti, one minute, I am getting to you, I want to let you answer all in one go."
Mufti Nayeem: "Save your life from her... she won't be silent."
Uzma Bukhari: "Save your life from the women of your home - your psychology is showing."
Mufti Nayeem: "Our women [in our house] are not like that."
Uzma Bukhari: "Thanks to Allah, men like you are few among us... [Anyway,] our first point is reconciliation, but if a woman is being beaten again and again, there is no way out for her, there is no shelter, the State wants to come forward for her. But it is not at all the case that we want to break up the family. [Fareed] Pracha, tell me, is it just the woman's responsibility to keep the family intact, not the responsibility of both the man and the woman...?"
Mufti Nayeem: "Islam Did Not Give Women The Right To Divorce - It Left It To The Man"
Mufti Nayeem: "Why does Islam not allow women to divorce? Why did it give to the man? The woman lacks patience."
Uzma Bukhari: "There is khula [women's right to seek a divorce in Islam]..."
Mufti Nayeem: "Islam did not give women the right to divorce - it left it to the man, because the man has patience, the woman lacks patience..."
Kamran Shahid: "Fauzia [Viqar,] with regards to khula, you know the Council of Islamic Ideology [a constitutional body in Pakistan] has said that the courts do not have power to divorce, [only] the husband has the Allah-given right to divorce. With regard to khula, the woman can file for khula but if the man doesn't turn up, the court decides after three months that it is a valid divorce. This too has been challenged by the Council of Islamic Ideology."
Fauzia Viqar: "Three hundred women died in 'honor' killings last year - can we ignore that...? Your second second point, about khula - yes, the right to talaq [divorce] is the man's, but the woman has the right to khula [i.e. to seek a divorce]. Why do we forget the Hadith in which the Prophet said that if a person does not like their spouse's face, they are entitled to quit the marriage?... The third point... So far, our view is that our culture is based on Islamic tenets because this [new] law was not in existence, and because of it things look good. Why are we forgetting that the government helpline receives dozens of calls from women who are being beaten?"
Mufti Nayeem, Islamic scholar
Mufti Nayeem: "You Remember One Woman Being Beaten... [But] Hundreds Of Thousands [Of Women Are Taken By Men] To Shop"; Fauzia Viqar: "He Can Beat Her Because He Takes Her Shopping?"
Fauzia Viqar: "Let me give an example from two months ago; A girl, barely 19, suffered brain damage when her husband beat her brutally when she objected to his second marriage, now she is in a vegetative state with her parents. At that time, not even our ulema [Islamic scholars] spoke out. And 200 children were abused [in Pakistan's Kasur district], but no one came."
Mufti Nayeem: "[You] remember one girl, and men take hundreds of thousands of girls to shop - you can't remember that."
Fauzia Viqar: "Why didn't you come out in streets when 200 children were abused?"
Mufti Nayeem, repeating himself: "[You] remember one girl, and men take hundreds of thousands of girls to shop - you can't remember that."
Fauzia Viqar: "When women are gang-raped, why don't you take to the streets [to protest]?"
Mufti Nayeem: "[Men spend] hundreds of thousands of rupees shopping, you can't remember that - but you remember one incident of a girl [beaten by her husband]."
Fauzia Viqar: "It's not a joking matter. Mufti, God forbid, if inside your house tomorrow your daughter suffers abuse and is brain damaged, and she goes to the police..."
Kamran Shahid: "It shouldn't happen in anyone's home."
Fauzia Viqar: "It should not happen in anyone's home. [But] God forbid it should happen in my home and I go to the police and they say, 'We won't take action.' Think about it. Just because he takes her shopping does that mean he can't beat her?"
Fareed Ahmad Paracha, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan
Mufti Nayeem: "Ignorant, Lying Woman!" Uzma Bukhari: "You Yourself Are The Biggest Liar, You Know Nothing But Still You Have Come Here To Teach Us Islam"
Uzma Bukhari: "Any woman who is a victim of abuse in this country, we stand by her, whether someone likes it or not. It will no longer happen that a woman is beaten unconscious, her nose is cut off, her legs are cut off, her hands are chopped off, and then you say we have a good culture, sorry."
Mufti Nayeem: "Jahil [ignoramus]!"
Uzma Bukhari: "There is limit to bad behavior; I have been respectful towards him because he is elderly."
Mufti Nayeem: "Ignorant, lying woman!"
Uzma Bukhari: "You yourself are the biggest liar, you know nothing but still you have come here to teach us Islam..."
Mufti Nayeem: "Jahil [ignoramus]! Jahil woman brought onto the media [i.e. this program]!"
Uzma Bukhari: "[Why did you] invite this jahil man? We have so many educated Islamic scholars."
Kamran Shahid: "Do not call each other jahil. "Mufti Nayeem, the law has been passed, andand the Pakistani parliament passed a similar bill, and so will other provinces. Now what is your objection - if we only talk about the law and do not attack other people?"
Mufti Nayeem: "Allah willing, this bill will not be passed; our culture, our society, our religion do not permit it. Tomorrow a Day of Condemnation against this bill will be held across all of Pakistan, against the government of Nawaz Sharif, against the government of Punjab, [to demand that] Western culture is not allowed inside our country."
Fauzia Viqar: "Mufti, when a woman was beaten in the head with a rock in front of the High Court, why didn't you then take to the streets? Two hundred children were abused in front of you, why didn't you come out?"