ISLAMABAD - Senior Pakistan People’s Party leader Senator Sherry Rehman has described South Asia as the Jurassic Park of the world.

The senator was in New Delhi yesterday to attend the Women in the World India Summit. The internationally recognised event featured a stellar line-up of international and Indian names including Academy Award winning actress Cate Blanchett, Madhuri Dixit, Nandita Das, Iranian female race car driver Laleh Seddigh, the founder of Nigeria’s “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign, former World Bank Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili and many other extraordinary global women of influence.

Speaking at the summit, Senator Rehman said there were days she was exhausted by the same conversation, the same hates and yet like the mythical Sisyphus moving the boulder up the mountain, her community of brave souls persevere too.

“What age are we living in? We can’t change our geography. We aren’t big islands like the UK or US, separated by an ocean. We are connected, not just by stories but also our geography, so work with what we have. We are neighbours, we can’t instantly love the neighbour, but dial down the hate,” she remarked.

“Not just Pakistan. I want to tell this empowered audience that it is a dangerous world. The world my daughter grows up in is very different than the one I grew up in, but our challenges are connected so let’s focus on finding common grounds. Global leadership has to be clear that we have to identify a common enemy. You might have done that but the world has to acknowledge the freight train heading our way.”

The PPP vice president said late Benazir Bhutto lived her life and campaigned in her last election the way she wanted to – touching every hand, going into it with her eyes open to people and danger. “Now that is leadership,” she declared.

A lot of decision-making is affected by what transpires at home, she said, and speaking to young women revealed just how intimidated they can be by insidious conversations at home. “Women have to find power outside home and in spite of home,” she said.

Senator Rehman insisted that many of the bills she had successfully steered through Pakistan’s parliament were laws she believed would never happen. And while she found resistance from some unexpected quarters, “you lobby, you work with media and the party falls into line but you still need critical mass,” she said.

The first landmark legislation passed by the Parliament includes an anti-sexual harassment law, and a domestic violence bill, along with a bill aimed at outlawing forced conversions which she hopes will come to pass in the near future.

A stronger bill on honour killing is also in the pipeline as the legislation that now stands, she says, still contains too much pressure on families to “forgive the aggressor.”

“I hope that a previously watered down bill will now see more power and that this privatizing of justice by forgiving, these jirgas, where women, too, collaborate in oppression … one has to protect those that are able to give voice to choose life,” she said.