It is important for major issues of our society to be highlighted, particularly among the youth. Recently, Never Forget Pakistan in collaboration with Amnesty International (LUMS) and Hum Aahang invited the students and faculty of LUMS to the inaugural session of a series of talks ‘Aao Baat Karain’. The main purpose of these talks is to create awareness among the youth regarding serious issues that plague society.

The first session was held to discuss issues facing women in Pakistan ranging from bonded labour, to insecure working environment faced by polio workers and the recent reforms by Punjab Government to protect women from domestic violence. The talk was held at LUMS and was moderated by Jibran Nasir. The keynote speakers included Bushra Arain, President All Pakistan Polio Workers Association and Syeda Ghulam Fatima, Bonded Labour Liberation Front. During the keynote speeches, the problems faced by polio workers in Pakistan ranging from social isolation to the government’s inability to pay the female polio workers their salaries were brought up. At the same time, the plight of bonded labour was highlighted which is something that goes unnoticed in our country.

Photo credits: Never Forget Pakistan 

The panel discussion included Azma Bokhari, who is a PMLN MPA and Chairman Law and Parliamentary Affairs  Committee, Dr. Samia Raheel Qazi from Jamaat-e-Islami and Council of Islamic Ideology, Muntaha Ahmad, a counselling psychologist, Salman Sufi, author of the Womens Protection Bill and senior member of the SMU and Dr. Khalid Zaheer who is a  scholar from Al Mawrid. The discussion revolved around the bill, it’s implementation and the criticism that the bill is receiving.

Photo credits: Never Forget Pakistan

Mr. Salman Sufi explained that the bill has been designed keeping in mind the fact that it is not only the creation of the bill that is important but also its implementation. He mentioned that the construction of  protection centers for women seeking refuge from abusive families had already begun a year ago in order t o ensure that the implementation of the bill became possible at the time of the passing of the bill. The bill, he mentioned, has been designed to protect any Pakistani woman and not just women facing domestic violence. The bill contains several different types of abuses that a woman can seek action against including economic abuse, psychological abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.

When questioned about why only 193 parliamentarians attended the session on the day that the bil had to be passed, Miss Azma replied that nowhere in the world is full attendance guaranteed at the time when an important bill has to be passed. She did, however, add that there are certainly individuals who do not approve of or support the bill.

The Council of Islamic Ideology and Jamat e Islami’s stance against the bill remained solid. Dr Samia Raheel reiterated the fact that certain things are meant to ‘stay within the home’. She further added that the Council of Islamic Ideology has a conflict with 13 of the bill’s clauses to which the council is ready to provide alternate solutions.

Photo credits: Never Forget Pakistan

On a question raised by Jibran Nasir regarding marital rape, Dr. Khalid Zaheer confirmed that such a term does not exist within religious parameters and that in such a situation, the only possible option is for a ‘compromise’ to be made. When a similar question regarding the acknowledgement of marital rape as a crime was raised by The Nation, Mr. Salman Sufi replied that marital rape would need a whole different set of legislature to be dealt with but that the section regarding ‘sexual violence’ within the bill is vague in order to deal with similar issues.

The next talk in the series has been scheduled at IBA Karachi on the topic of climate change. Speaking to The Nation, Jibran Nasir said, “The intention is to engage the youth, bring forth serious panelists, and have constructive discussions not often seen on prime time shows.”