HR activists in Pak hurt at anti-women leaders induction into federal cabinet

November 12th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by ANI  

Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, Nov 12 (ANI): The inclusion of two new ministers, who in the past faced charges of exhibiting brutal attitude towards women, has drawn huge criticism in Pakistani political circles. The critics say that they would not have been inducted into the cabinet, had slain PPP chairperson and former premier Benazir Bhutto been alive and running the present day government.

The installation of Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani and Israrullah Zehri as ministers in the Yousuf Raza Gilani government has caused outrage among human rights activists. While Bijarani has been made the new education minister, Zehri has been given the portfolio of postal services.

While Bijarani is a senior PPP leader, Zehri is a Senator and belongs to a minority alliance partner in the coalition government.

Bijarani has been charged with presiding over a jirga which gave away five young girls as a form of compensation, and Zehri had recently hit international media headlines after defending the burying alive of women in honour-killing cases. The latter even said that also said that burying women alive was a tribal tradition, and that I will continue to defend them. Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid, reported The Guardian.

Last year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had ordered the arrest of Oxford-educated Bijarani over the allegations, though he remained at liberty. He has now been made minister for education. Street protests and angry newspapers editorials met the induction of Bijarani and Zehri, who were brought in as part of a major expansion of the cabinet last week.

It is a very clear message from the government that they don”t care about these things, said Samar Minallah, a human rights campaigner who had brought the court case against Bijarani. I think they deliberately chose these two people to be ministers to send that message.

The practice of settling disputes by awarding girls taken from the family of those convicted by a traditional meeting of village elders in a jirga to an aggrieved party is illegal but it continues in rural parts of the country.

Reacting strongly to the development, Tahira Abdullah, a member of rights group the Women’’s Action Forum, said: Is this the politics of appeasement. It almost looks like rewarding these men for their deeds against women.

Likewise, Iqbal Haider, the co-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: The basic character of the cabinet is in support of honour killings. Had Benazir Bhutto been alive she would never have allowed this. (ANI)

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