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Indo-Pak peace - a mirage
Women have taken the lead in bringing the twins of the Subcontinet together. After the visit of Indian women’s delegation to Pakistan, who praised the Pakistani rulers and common people for their hospitality, it was the turn of Pakistani women to came to India on a similar ‘peace’ mission.
Relations between the two countries are at the lowest level as usual. There are no formal talks between the two countries. Since the Pakistani misadventure in Kargil and the subsequent change of guards in Pakistan, there is a complete freeze of relations between the two neighbours. The scenario is very grim.
But women of the two countries are proving to be messengers of peace. They are keeping the hope of peace and amity alive in the region as an unofficial link between the two bitter enemies.
On 2 May a group of fifty women led by the chairman of a Pakistani human rights NGO, Asma Jahangir, descended on India. It is a mission of peace as Shabnam Rashid put it. This large contingent of women was received with great enthusiasm by their Indian counterparts. They received much appreciation from Indian politicians and officials and were given receptions by several central and state ministers. Common Indians also welcomed such efforts.
Muslim women of the capital also tried to fulfill their responsibility by inviting them to an informal meet. In a programme organized by the Committee for the Empowerment of Muslim Women several members of Pakistani delegation obliged by attending the meet. Everyone appreciated the mission of these ladies who, despite all the hurdles thrown by their government, were trying to strive for mutual peace and amity and were struggling to bring the two bitter enemies together. People also felt that such links are the only hope to keep the relations of the two countries going. Leading members of Pakistani delegation, including Asma Jahangir, Hina Jeelani, Saira Maududi and Shabnam Rasheed, were present in the programme.
When The Milli Gazette asked Hina Jeelani, a leading human rights figure in Pakistan, as to what are the common things between Indian and Pakistani women, pat came the answer: both are same. According to her the miseries of women in both the countries are agonizingly similar. Both are deprived of their fundamental rights, neglected by society and exploited by everyone including their family members and kinsmen. They have no right to claim their rightful place in society. They are not treated on par with their male counterparts. They are undereducated and underfed. Another problem that she referred to in the context of women in the Subcontinent is the practice of forced marriage, where the girl has no say over the choice of her husband. Unfortunately all these problems are quite common.
Reacting to a question about how she found India, Shabnam Rashid of the Pak delegation said that India is very warm and hospitable. She also told this correspondent that she was amazed to see so many women occupying high offices in this country. She added that men in India are more tolerant than in her home country.
But one thing was very confusing. Members of the Pak delegation were quick to denounce Shariah and Muslim personal laws. In their view Shariah laws restrict the freedom of women and place them at a certain disadvantage. According to Hina Jeelani, there is need to change Shariah laws so to make them applicable to the modern times too. According to her, Shariah laws in her country are very discriminatory and place the women at great disadvantage vis-a-vis men and hinder the development and growth of women in her country.
Another disturbing aspect was the avoidance of Pakistani delegation to discuss issues of Muslim women in India. Asked what she thinks is common between Muslim women in both the countries, Shabnam Rashid of South Asia Partnership, was evasive. But when this correspondent persisted she said that she had nothing to do with Indian Muslim women and is concerned with them only as general women. She added that she does not believe in discrimination on religious lines.
The efforts of these women for improving ties between the two countries should be appreciated. But the way these ladies have been denouncing Sharia’h laws and Islam, it is giving a negative signal. In fact it affects the Indian Muslims in more than one way as there have been efforts to impose a common civil code in India. These sorts of comments will encourage anti-Muslim elements and encourage them to try to impose a common civil code.