More on the Islamic resistance to reform of the sex laws in Pakistan. In my book The Truth About Muhammad I explain the events in Muhammad’s life that led to the creation of the Islamic laws requiring four male witnesses to establish guilt in crimes of rape and adultery. Now that book has been banned in Pakistan for containing “objectionable material.” But here is one indication that what I wrote in it about Muhammad’s words and deeds was an accurate portrayal of how he is understood by Muslims: those resisting the new laws in Pakistan are doing so on Islamic grounds, because they know full well that the Qur’an and Muhammad really did require four male witnesses. By Mazhar Abbas for AFP, with thanks to DFS:
Human rights groups have praised Pakistan for overhauling its Islamic sex laws, but for women like Quratulain Sattar, it is still an uphill battle against trumped-up charges under the harsh legislation.
The 25-year-old medical trainee’s father lodged adultery charges against Quratulain and her husband, Faraz Shah, after failing to force her to marry the man of his choice.
Now pregnant and in hiding, she complains that even if she and Faraz are acquitted, they remain under threat for disgracing her family’s “honour” under Pakistan’s atavistic tribal system.
“The new amendments eased my legal battle but I am still in fear of my life and have to run from one place to another,” Quratulain said at a shelter run by a charity in the southern port city of Karachi.
“We are husband and wife, we love each other and cannot leave each other,” she added.
Quratulain married Faraz Shah in early 2005.
Coming from a conservative ethnic Pashtun background — the same ethnicity as the Taliban — her father filed a case arguing that she was already married to another man and that Shah had kidnapped her and forced her to wed.
The couple sheltered in Karachi at the private Edhi Centre, Pakistan’s largest charity. They also worked as volunteers following the October 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which killed more than 73 000 people.
Her family’s accusations are “completely false”, she said.
“I was forcibly engaged with my cousin Bilal in [the conservative north-western city of] Mardan but never married. They are now coming out with fake witnesses,” she said.
“I did nothing wrong as my mother and brothers knew about it. They had even met Faraz and liked him, but then they all changed and followed my father’s attitude, and rejected my husband.”
Her father and other family members were not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
The case is still active and is due to be heard soon at a court in Karachi.
In July, President Pervez Musharraf changed the 27-year-old Islamic “Hudood” Laws to make adultery a bailable offence, leading to the release of hundreds of women awaiting charges — and meaning Quratulain would not go to jail.
Then last month Parliament passed a hotly contested Bill with further, major changes.
These included distinguishing between rape and adultery. Formerly rape victims had to produce four Muslim male witnesses to prove the allegation or else face adultery charges themselves.
The reforms will also reduce penalties for adultery to a maximum of five years jail, when it was previously — although theoretically — death by stoning.