The Status of Women in Pakistan

The issue of the status of women has figured prominently in the policy environment surrounding the implementation of Pakistan’s Islamization program. Critics of Islamization have often focused their attention on the alleged discriminatory effects of the program on the rights of women. Indeed, during the 1988 general election campaign Benazir Bhutto promised to rescind the Hudood Ordinances. And, one of her first acts after assuming office was to release all women convicts in Pakistan’s jails, save those who were convicted murderers. As explained by the then Minister of Justice, Aitzaz Ahsan, this action served to redress the injustices meted out to women convicted under the terms of the Hudood Ordinances. Benazir’s case was strengthened during September 1989, when a series of documentaries were broadcast on American and British television and radio. Each of these doc- umentaries focused on the rights of women in Pakistan, each ar- gued that the Islamization process discriminated against the rights of women, and each called for the repeal of the Hudood • Ordinances. Nevertheless, Benazir’s administration was unable or unwilling to halt the process of Islamization in the state. The official explanation is that the government’s hands were tied as Benazir’s coalition government controlled far less support than the two-third majority needed to amend Pakistan’s constitution. It also must be noted that the government took few, if any, administrative steps to slow the pace of Islamization. In fact, several important issues pertaining to Islamization, dormant during the latter days of the Zia regime, were addressed by the Supreme Court during Benazir’s tenure. Such findings of the Supreme Court have expanded the scope and hastened the pace of the process of Islamization in the state.


Source: Islamization of Laws and Economy: Case Studies on Pakistan, Charles Kennedy. Republished with permission.
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