Women’s rights groups in Pakistan fear that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s plans to “Islamize” the country’s government will devastate women there.
Pakistani women already face pervasive domestic abuse and discrimination. Shahnaz Bokhari of the Progressive Women’s Association believes that Sharif’s plan will devastate gains made in women’s rights by institutionalizing women’s status as invisible and inferior and asked “Will this lead us to another Taliban?”
Bokhari reported that hundreds of Pakistani women are burned or mutilated by their husbands and that if the government imposes sharia, the abuse will increase. Fatima Mernissi defines sharia as sacred law based on the Koran and Sunna (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad), which represents or expresses divine will1. “If sharia is imposed, how can they say women will be safe? At home, behind a veil, where they can be burned or killed with no recourse?” asked Bokhari.
The government denies any attempt to emulate the Taliban and states that its objective is to rid Pakistani society of “barbarity and lawlessness.”
Critics of the government charge Sharif’s plan to “Islamize” Pakistan is unnecessary because the government’s constitution already clearly establishes Pakistan’s adherence to Islam. Aitzaz Ahsan, opposition leader in the National Assembly, said that Sharif’s plan would allow him to rule as a dictator, issuing orders that legislators and courts would have no power to refuse. “This is designed very nakedly to concentrate all authority and power in the prime minister’s office. It would make him a supra-constitutional monster,” said Ahsan.
1Mernissi, Fatima (1991). The veil and the male elite. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, p. 32.