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Saturday, November 22, 2008

What would Benazir do? —Rafia Zakaria

What would Benazir Bhutto have done if she were alive today? At least with regard to women, it seems it’s a question that has never been asked by the very administration elected in her name.


For the women of Pakistan, however, the death of Benazir Bhutto has meant a crude and ruthless relegation to a forgotten recess of politics. While the new PPP government may well have been elected based on the legacy of an incredible woman, it has done scant little to honour it. Ministers have been appointed and recommendations duly rejected without the slightest concern for the forgotten and ignored constituency of Pakistani citizens. Honour killings, acid attacks and sexual assaults on women have increased rapidly and been summarily ignored by a government that was elected because of the woman who once led them.

One most recent example is the burgeoning controversy over recommendations made by the Council of Islamic Ideology to reform Pakistan’s inegalitarian divorce laws to bring them in accordance with Islamic principles. According to the Council’s report presented this past weekend to President Zardari, current law needs to be changed to require the registration of the first pronouncement of talaq (divorce) with following pronouncements only to be given effect if the former requirement is met.

The Council also recommends that women also be given the right to divorce by adding a clause to the nikahnama that would allow them to petition courts for divorce. The resultant divorce would automatically take effect within 90 days if the husband fails to oblige. In addition, the Council recommended, a man entering into marriage would be required to declare all his assets and financial liabilities as well as previous marriages.

What would Benazir do? —Rafia Zakaria


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