Human right abuses against women on the rise under Pakistani PM’s watch

In his Islamisation spree, the military ruler of Pakistan during 1977-88, General Zia-ul-Haq, ordered what he called “Tahafuz-i-Chaddar our Char Diwari” (protection of women’s honour and home). He also banned girls from playing hockey because militants had complained that the game exposed girls’ bodies. Ultimately, leading to Pakistani women not taking part in going international games. 

The ban on hockey invited international ridicule. Pakistani women wondered if Mullahs went to the field to watch the game or to watch women’s bodies? Zia himself flouted this order in respect of Benazir Bhutto who was shamefully treated by his intelligence man while in the Chardiwari of her prison cell in Karachi after the execution of her father and then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Zia’s Hadood Ordinance required a raped woman to produce four pious witnesses to prove her case or go to jail, this saw hundreds of girls and women who complained of rape but could not produce witnesses sent to jail.

After Benazir Bhutto took over as Prime Minister in December 1988 she ordered the release of such rape victims, but rapists were not punished—maybe for the team of mullahs insistence on pious witnesses.

Islamic extremism

While writing on the plight of the Pakistani women one cannot ignore the long-lasting contribution of Zia’s 11 year-reign (1977-88). It is during this period that mullahs’ misogynist Kink/and Islamic extremism which encourages anti-women mindset as never before was buttressed. A reflection of this can be seen in men’s attitudes especially police officers towards women in cases such as kidnapping, rape and forcible conversion of minor Hindu and Christian girls.

Victims’ parents cannot get help from the police because of the negative mindset and poverty among them. What help can they get? The counting has Prime Minister Imran Khan, who blames rape victims’ clothes and Hindu films. The US news agency AP in its dispatch last month reported cases of promiscuity linked to Imran Khan during his time in Europe.

It would be hypocritical for a man with such traits to protect women and has been closer to mullahs who encourage such vices. Last month, Parliament asked the known anti-women Islamic Ideology Council (IIC) to give its opinion on a bill for protecting women because it was afraid to pass it. The council has already given its opinion in favour of wife-beating. In its report on the State of Human Rights in 2020, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says World Economic Forum ranks Pakistan 151 out of 153 on the global gender gap index. That puts Pakistan (a nuclear—power country) only above Iraq’s Yemen and Afghanistan (Women’s humiliation) Social degradations and humiliation went on throughout the year by way of denial of economic opportunity including rape, gang rape and honour killing.

HRCP which compiled its report on the published material and interviews admitted that the number of cases of violence and crime against women are under-mentioned in its report because a very large number of cases were not reported in the media. However, whatever figures were available showed a rising trend in such cases throughout 2020 all over Pakistan and the Kashmiri territory under its occupation. According to the HRCP report, Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, led the country in crime against women.

Surging figures

Its chart shows 4000 rape and gang rape cases in Punjab. Women alone were not the victims of rape: men, too, were. In addition to this, minor children (mostly girls) were raped. This chart does not show figures for rape and murder but there are. In Kasur, a man had the mania of raping and killing girls between one year and 15 years. Women are specific targets of other crimes-honour killings (237 cases), domestic violence (276) and acid throwing particularly on women (59). The chart also skips forcible conversion and marriage of Hindu and Christian girls. The report says Punjab has the largest number of female prisoners (737). HRCP quotes Sindh police website to say that in 2020, a total of 398 rapes and gang rapes were committed. The number of honour crimes stood at 126. But HRCP recorded 197 cases of honour killing of mostly women. There were 371 cases of sexual crimes involving 212 women. In Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, the domestic violence affecting women was the highest—304. Rape of women, minors and rape-murder totalled up to 549.

Aurat foundation claims that violence against women has dropped to 44 from 118 in 2019. HRCP in Baluchistan doubts this claim.

In the capital city of Islamabad, there were 51 cases of rape and gang rape and sodomy of minors-25 and rape go on but there are no complaints because there is no faith in the system.