Pakistan: The struggle for the rights of women continues on February 12th Women's Day

In the week that rape-victim Mukhtar Mai faces interference in her case, women commemorate the day Pakistani women protested against the rescinding of women’s rights in the name of religion by a military dictator in 1983.
On 12 February 1983, defying the ban on public assembly and protest, women attempting to deliver a petition to the Lahore High Court were brutally attacked by the police, tear-gassed, lathi-charged and thrown into police lock-up. Today, Pakistan is at the crossroads: challenged by a severe economic crisis, the country is being terrorized by people abusing the name of Islam and challenging the writ of the state in many regions.
WAF protest bigger

Women's Action Forum is profoundly distressed at the spiraling violence, insane torture and abuse as well as the flaunting of the law of the land with impunity.

WAF condemns in the strongest possible terms all forms of brutality in the northern areas, especially Swat, including: the systematic destruction of schools and health facilities, especially those for girls and women, the acid and other physical attacks on women and men, the unchecked proliferation of illegal radio stations calling for violence and the abundant and endless supplies of arms and explosives at their disposal. Thousands of people have been killed; hundreds of thousands of displaced are forced to live in miserable conditions without adequate food or shelter, the number of women being tortured, killed and targeted is increasing every day.

WAF is deeply shocked at the horrifying incidents of torture, humiliation, murder and complete disrespect for human dignity and humanity. WAF extends its sympathy and condolences to all the victims and their relatives.

WAF salutes the brave women teachers who lost their lives by defying the ban on girls’ schooling and all those who continue to stand up for justice and rule of law despite threats.

One such woman is Mukhtar Mai whose case comes up before the Supreme Court. WAF is gravely concerned at reports of a sitting Federal Minister, Mr. Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, pressurizing Mukhtar Mai to drop charges against the accused in her case and rumours of threats to her and her family.

WAF calls upon the Government of Pakistan to:

• Take immediate effective steps to control growing intolerance and lawlessness,
• To apprehend all extremist politico-religious elements regardless of their affiliation
• Ensure that Mukhtar Mai is not subject to any pressure from any quarter and provided security during and after the Supreme Court hearing and ruling,
• To investigate the source of pressure and take all necessary measures to stop such pressure
• To recognize and address the special needs and concerns of the increasing numbers of internally displaced persons and to ensure adequate medical cover, shelter and security to all

WAF calls upon women and civil society actors across all classes, castes, ethnicity and religions to unite against terrorism and injustice whether in the name of religion or tradition.

On this day, February 12th, 2009, WAF resolves to continue its struggle for the rights of women and all disempowered people and to support and strengthen all movements and campaigns for the protection of people’s livelihoods, rights and liberty.

Statement by WAF Lahore
Working Committee