ISLAMABAD              -           A parliamentarian from the ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf drew flak from the opposition side in the Senate on Friday when he tried to give preference to ‘honour’ and ‘culture’ to downplay the issue of ‘honour killings’.

While taking part in the debate on the annual report of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) for the year 2017, Senator Aziz gave an impression to the house of supporting the honour killing when he said: “Honour killing is an issue but honour and the culture are also important.”

He advised that women should lead their lives under the principles laid down by Islamic Shariah and also criticized non-government organisations for raising slogans on international women day that “males should heat up their meals themselves.”

PPP Parliamentary Leader Sherry Rehman came down hard on the PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz for what she said that he (Mohsin) cited “culture as a reason for oppressing women.”

She said: “When it comes to women’s rights, I expect all parties to adopt a bipartisan approach in the Parliament.” She added that no one couldn’t justify honour killings or any other oppression, let alone condemn entire rights movements, in the name of culture.

“There shouldn’t be honour killing in the name of culture, you can’t refuse accepting equal rights for women in or outside homes in the name of culture,” PPP senator said and warned that no one should use the name of religion and culture when it comes to giving rights to women.

She said that Islam guaranteed women better rights in the 7th Century, which should have grown with the demands of social change. It is our fault that we have not given them freedom, equality and power that we should have by now, she said and added: “We [women] are neither a second gender nor will we condone honour killings in this house”.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to US and PPP leader said that women rights were violated regularly in their society but for a progressive party like the PPP, they formed a major component of their manifesto to give them equal rights.  She reminded that women spearheaded the women’s movement with an unprecedented bravery, offering invaluable sacrifices as they faced a dictator like Ziaul Haq. “We don’t fight for ourselves. We fight for those who are without privilege or power as honour crimes are mostly faced for those living in deeply vulnerable situations, in rural or tribal areas, having no access to even lawyers.”

Ending on a lighter note, she said that new women movement too must be supported and if Senator Aziz did not like slogans like “Male should heat up their own meals” from the last women’s demonstrations, he should be careful as “we will make sure he has to heat up his own meal too”.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Nuzhat Sadiq said that the NCSW report pointed out that though steps had been taken in some areas like academia, corporate sector and media to improve conditions of women, yet concerted efforts were needed to uplift them in some sectors, including rural women and home-based workers. She quoting one of the recommendations of the report said that a mechanism should be formed to collect data of those women who work in non-formal sectors, mostly home-based workers. She underscored that the NCSW have no resources and it is still facing a lot of challenges since its establishment.

Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed quoting the report deplored that over 12 million women registered with the national registration authority were still missing from the electoral rolls. He said that, according to the report, if National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) used to issue 5000 CNICs (computerized national identity cards) to women daily, then with this speed it would take 18 years to issue CNICs to all women in Pakistan.

Reading out the contents of the NCSW report, he said that as many 96 women prisoners along with their 35 children were living in a barrack of Peshawar jail that was only meant for 30 persons. In 2017, he said, acid was thrown on 40 women and 1,882 cases of violence against women were only registered in Punjab with 21 per cent increase. Only 1000 such cases were registered in Lahore followed by 756 in Muzaffargarh, headed. He recommended that madrassa and mosque as an institution should be to bring awareness about rights of women, to empower them and to end violence against them.

PTI Senator Seemi Ezdi also said that over 12 million women, registered with NADRA, were missing from electoral roll. Even in Islamabad, as many 60,000 women voters did not exercise their right to vote in a single election, she said.

PML-N Senator Pir Sabir Shah said that they must talk about giving rights and freedom to women but remarked, “An effort is being made to ruin the atmosphere of home (family) in the name of giving emancipation to women.”

In the meanwhile, Presiding Officer Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah interrupted him and said that the lawmaker couldn’t not be allowed to participate in the house proceedings as the Election Commission has suspended his basic membership house for not submitting his annual statement of assets and liabilities—a mandatory requirement for lawmakers under the law. However, chair allowed him to speak to complete his speech on his request, though the law and the rules did not allow any lawmaker to attend any sitting of the house when his or her basic membership of the house has been suspended.