Past in Perspective

“What is a constitution? It is a booklet

with twelve or ten pages. I can tear them away and say that tomorrow we shall live under a different system.”

–Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

When martial law administrator and the late President of Pakistan, Zia-ul-Haq, talked about living under a different system, few knew that he was talking quite literally. Due to the passing of the Hudood Ordinance, his policies of Islamisation spread all across Pakistan. The greatest effect of the ordinance was, perhaps, on the women as sexist laws like two women constituting as one man as a witness in the justice system and the conviction of men only under circumstances when he was caught committing the act were passed. Angered, over 400 women signed a petition and marched towards the Lahore High court while burning their dupattas making it the first protest ever where the police used tear gas, charged at and arrested many from the group of women.

These protests, a simple manifestation of democracy, resulted in a national call for women rights and the formation of The Women’s Action Forum to ensure a stronger position of women in the politics of Pakistan. It allowed for the empowerment of women today by setting an example of speaking out despite being in such a discriminative environment. The same strength was shown by women who opposed the fact that the Council of Islamic Ideology allowed for husbands to ‘lightly beat their wives’ in the Women’s Protection Bill of 2016 by not only protesting but by taking over social media, as easily accessible platform to display disapproval. The evolution towards a progressive mindset of the women started majorly during the time of the presidency of General Zia by the strong willed women who suffered great suppression.

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