We are not living in Riyasat-e-Madinah

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Had it been a perfect world, PM Khan’s recent assurance to a group of ulema should not have raised any eyebrows. After all, what else should a country, created as a Muslim homeland, work for if not the legal institutionalisation of its religious identity? Going by the progressive ideas that form the crux of Islam as a moderate religion–peaceful coexistence and well-defined human rights–Islamabad’s call to not uphold any legislation that was in direct contravention should have been a cue to make merry. Who wouldn’t want to join the 21st century?
Muslim reformers all over are returning to their primary religious sources and chronicles to put up a firm stand against Western warriors and fire-breathing extremists. In 2:190 Holy Quran unambiguously asserts, “Do not commit aggression,” while in 60:8, Allah Almighty is quite explicit that he “does not forbid you from being kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on you on account of your religion nor driven you from your homes.” Never had any religion more passionately advocated the status of women as beloved equals than Islam. In the midst of a deeply sexist cacophony of religious musings (Jewish purity system and Bible’s controversial commandments against female education and emphasis on being “silent,”) Islam had outrightly shone as a true beacon of light.
But dear prime minister, your noble cause to protect Pakistan’s socio-religious family system cannot come at the repugnant cost of violating the very rights, your religion expects you to fight nail and tooth for. For this is not the seventh century, and we are not living in Riyasat-e-Madinah (as of yet, at least)!
Ours is a country that takes immense pride in preserving men’s control over women. The menace that Noor Muqaddam’s gruesome murder in Islamabad failed to bring out in the open is the ever-so-pertinent domestic violence. How can we save a wife from being burned to death (Sindh); the entire female members of a clan from being murdered (Shikarpur) and innumerable others from the heart-shattering clutches of honour crimes when the relevant Domestic Violence Bill 2021 gets conveniently tucked in a dark corner?
We may hide the victims of Pakistan’s patriarchy; sweeping them under the rug of obscurity. The Zia era’s char deewari may fasten the locks on ironclad shackles around our women’s ankles. But wouldn’t that be the gravest travesty of justice? Here’s where the sitting government can come into play. You’ve got a huge female vote bank, PM Khan, which is counting on you to finally bring some meaningful change in their gloomy lives! The ball may be in the CII’s court, Sir, but your every move is being watched. With the women-centric inheritance drive, special courts, Zainab Alert Act 2020 and the abolition of the two-finger virginity test, your cabinet is already making strides to shatter the glass ceiling. But no viable progress is possible without passing the long-awaited DVB. Shelving it would be akin to shooting in one’s foot. Godspeed!