LAHORE - Receiving alarm from the religious parties’ threat to launch a protest movement against the Women Protection Act, the PML-N government has become active to control the situation.

The platform of 32 religious and religio-political parties has set March 27 deadline for the government to withdraw the act while the government is in no mood to do so though it has kept the doors of negotiations open, said sources in the government quarters.

They say the government has framed a strategy which includes contacting the pro-act ulema to counter the arguments of its opponents and refining the law of irritants purely against the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah.

The so far loose-knitted platform of the said parties and the government have held unsuccessful talks on the act following which both sides are preparing to face each other.

Though the act has been brought in only in the largest province of the country, Punjab, where the PML-N has been in power over the last eight years, the controversy has reached the federal level. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met JUI-F Amir Maulana Fazlur Rehman the other day and hinted at addressing reservations of the religious parties on the act.

The religious parties, at a meeting in Mansura Tuesday, announced the Pakistan National Alliance-like movement launched in the name of Nizam-e-Mustafa against the Bhutto government in 1977. They termed the act un-Islamic and demanded its withdrawal.

On the other hand, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah claimed nothing therein was un-Islamic. The law minister is also head of the provincial committee which has been assigned to contact ulema and ascertain which provision of the act does not match the Islamic injunctions.

Sources say the committee will present its report to the chief minister and its findings will also be shared with the PM who will address concerns of the religious parties as per his commitment given to Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Sources say the government will also project to the public point of view of the ulema that are in favour of retaining the act and may refer it to the Council of Islamic Ideology if they point out any un-Islamic provision therein, and holding operation of the law in abeyance by that time. Sources say the third option is the court to decide the matter and the government will act upon it.

As to launching 1977-like movement, sources say it has little scope for the reason that all the 32 parties have more than one point on agenda and not only the act which is limited to one province. The religious parties also lack backing of political parties like PTI, PPP and PML-Q which have already lent their unconditional support to the act on the floor of the Punjab Assembly.

However, a fear exists about disturbance of peace in the province on account of movement which does not suit the government. That is why the government wants a negotiated settlement of the act, the sources say and add it is difficult for the government to totally scrap this act for the protection of women as it falls under the same line of legislation which the government has already done against child labour, bonded labour and child labour at brick kilns which has been demanded by the European states where Pakistan textile products go under the GPS-Plus status.

Meanwhile, talking to this scribe, Punjab spokesman Zaeem Qadri said the government is determined to implement Women Protection Act and if anyone has concerns about it, courts are open for him.

He said the act has been passed by the assembly and not the government, so anyone having reservations to that may approach the court of law and the government will follow its decision. He said if the religious parties want change in any sentence under the act, the government is ready to talk with them. He said if the religious parties, instead of going to the court, launch movement, it would be only to gain political ends.

Madaris to hold conference

Online adds: Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia has decided to hold “Istehqam Madaris Pakistan” conference on April 3 at Lahore.

Secretary General Wafaqul Madaris Al-Arabia Maulana Qari Hanif Jalandhri on Wednesday addressing a press conference in Islamabad said that religious community is not against rights of women and Islam gives respect to women in a manner that no other law in the world ensures.

Jalandhri said that administrators of seminaries of all sects, religious scholars, lawyers, journalists and ambassadors from across the world have been invited to this conference.

He said that the government was taking unconstitutional and undemocratic steps against seminaries and religious community under the National Action Plan in a bid to fulfil its agenda. “Some elements were busy in conspiracies against state and Madaris,” he added.

He said the entire religious community across the country expressed their concerns over “Women Protection Bill”, saying this law cannot protect women.