The Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act, 2016, (PWAV Act) has been passed amidst much hue and cry from members of the bearded hypocrisy brigade, who have dubbed this as a law that threatens to destroy our cultural and religious “family values”. They claim (without any rhyme or reason, as usual) that this piece of legislation is trying to enforce “western values” into our homes, turning our living rooms into a microcosm that militates against age-old values that are a core of our Pakistan and Muslim identities.

Well, intellectual honesty demands that we put these claims to test against the substance and spirit of the PWAV Act.

At the very outset, it is important to mention that, whatever the motivations, the PML-N government deserves much praise and accolades for having had the political courage pass this legislation. Drafts of this legislation had been making rounds in the Provincial Assembly sub-committees for almost two years now. It came close to being finalised a number of times, and had been deemed dead at other occasions. But despite ups and downs, the PML-N leadership has finally passed a landmark legislation that promises a brighter future for the almost 60 million women residents of Punjab.

From the substantive perspective, the PWAV Act attempts “to establish a protection system for effective service delivery to women victims” of violence. Section 3 of the PWAV Act enumerates measures for implementation of this goal, including, inter alia, institution of a “universal toll free dial-in-number”, “establish Protection Centers and shelter homes”, establish and staff the “Protection Centre”, arrange for “wide publicity” in all relevant languages, and creating “mechanism for the periodic sensitisation and awareness of the concerned public servants”. And for enforcement of these measures, anytime that a family court is convinced the PWAV Act grants the family courts powers to, inter alia, grant “protection” order (to protect women against violent offenders) and “residence” orders (not to remove an aggrieved women from her residence) and “money” orders (to compensate an aggrieved woman).

As an implementation mechanism, the PWAV Act envisions District Women Protection Committees (Section 11), Women Protection Centers and shelter homes Section 13), staffed by Women Protection Officers at the district and local level (Section 14).

And, again, all of these are only designed to protect against domestic and other “violence” perpetrated.

Now, the question that is knocking at the back of every thinking mind: what part of this bothers the mullahs? What part of legislating for protection of women against violence offends our “family values”? In fact, more pertinently, which “family value” requires or encourages domestic or other violence against women? And how would our “family values” be diminished or destroyed if we punish the perpetrator, or (worse yet) do not perpetrate such violence?

The truth is that mullah’s opposition to the PWAV Act has nothing to do with a defence of our family values. Just the way his support of Mumtaz Qadri had nothing to do with defending the blasphemy law. And opposition to DNA testing in criminal law cases had nothing to do with upholding the sanctity of Sharia-sanctioned eyewitness testimony.

The opposition of PWAV, the support of Mumtaz Qadri, and all other similar shenanigans are aimed at one thing, and one thing alone: carving out a political and social fiefdom that is regressive and threatens the modern way of life. That is it.

For centuries now, the mullah, who claims to be the biological and spiritual heir of Adam, has commanded his listeners to ensure that women – inferior beings – abide by the rules of their bondage. That they can not leave the house without the presence of a male companion; that they be educated just enough to appropriately raise the sons; that their every action remain constraint to the strict bounds drawn for them; and that these ‘tenants’ of Islam be instilled in each woman, from the time of her birth.

In the shade of this philosophy, we have written our Constitution in the voice of men. A Constitution in which the womankind were explicitly included in the protection of minorities. Their freedoms, the inviolable part of their human soul, were handed down to her as an act of grace, by the magnanimous sons of Adam. That the frail masculinity of a woman’s fathers and brothers, has seen her as a lesser being, when viewed through the prism of a bigoted religious philosophy. And, as a result, we have written a law that considers woman’s testimony to be half of that of men. Her share in her father’s property is half that of her brothers. We have written laws in which her body and respect is violated, her screams would only be heard by our courts of justice, if they are corroborated by four male witnesses.

If the eternal promise of good prevailing over the evil, in the final analysis, is true (which it must be); if one day we will all find ourselves face to face with our Creator, and be confronted with unadulterated truth (which we certainly will); if eternity, at the death of stars, will require each of us to account for our time on this planet (which it inescapably will); then it will be no justification to say that we looked the other way. We would have to answer for the fact that we allowed such hypocrisy brigades to rumble through our land, with impunity. That while we did not participate or support such philosophy, we tolerated it with compassion. That we knew who the mongers of regression were, and still welcomed them in our lives. That while we did not become hypocrites, we tolerated their presence. That we did not become evil, only transacted with it.

Fixing this hypocrisy, and confronting the enemy within, is an imminent imperative. And this process must begin here and now.