Press Release: Violence Against Women MPAs in Punjab Assembly

Women’s Action Forum Lahore condemns, in the strongest terms possible and demands stern action against Member Punjab Assembly, Sheikh Allauddin of the Unification Block for using abusive and filthy language for women members of the house on 20th June 2012. It also condemns those members who supported this behaviour through desk thumping.

Sheikh Allaudin, who is himself a ‘floor crosser’, has a history of using derogatory language against women including vulgar and filthy gestures. It is a matter of deep concern that instead of condemning his behaviour ruling party MPAs and their allies gave him full support as manifested through the physical assault and harassment of women MPAs on the following day. This behaviour has shamed the nation and bodes ill for the future as it denigrates women and encourages violence against them.

WAF is appalled by the silence of the Chief Minister and his aides who make tall claims about the honour of women and for their protection and rights. When elected women members of the Punjab Assembly are not safe from verbal and physical assault inside the house, what hope is there the ordinary woman? This behaviour has shamed all Pakistani men both nationally and internationally.

WAF demands registration of criminal cases of sexual assault and abuse against the said members on the basis of the written application already filed with the police by the women MPAs who were subjected to this violence.

WAF expects and demands of the women parliamentarians of the Unification Block to hold

Members like Sheikh Allaudin accountable for their behaviour towards women MPAs.

WAF urges the Election Commission to take notice of the fact that in his tirade against women Sheikh Allaudin openly ridiculed the Constitutional provision of reserved seats for women.

Working Committee

June 21, 2012

WAF Statement on the Anti Women Practices Bill 2008

Women’s Action Forum Lahore welcomes the ‘Anti Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill 2008’ passed by the National Assembly on November 15 and anticipates its smooth passage by the Senate.

This Bill addresses the issue of forced marriage and archaic coercive practices such as Swarah, Vani and marriage to the Quran. It also ensures women’s right and access to inherited property and is being hailed as a step in the right direction. As a result of amendments both in the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, forced marriages and the denial of a woman’s right to inherited property have become non-compoundable offences. Depriving a woman of her inheritance now entails a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of one million rupees. Forcibly giving a woman in marriage with a view to settle civil disputes or criminal liability is now punishable with imprisonment for a term that can extend to up to seven years but cannot be less than three along with a fine of Rs.500000. Moreover, compelling or facilitating the marriage of a woman with the Holy Quran is punishable with imprisonment for a term that can extend to up to seven years but cannot be less than three along with a fine of Rs500,000.

WAF recognizes that this Bill is a step in the right direction as it criminalizes customary practices that have hitherto been legitimized by culture and tradition. These practices have been the cause of great injustice, violence and have also resulted in the murder of women along with the forcible conversion of non-Muslim women through marriage following abduction and rape.

At the same time WAF strongly cautions against complacency and reiterates the urgent need for this Bill to be enacted as law. Moreover, WAF would like to draw attention to the fact that procedural mechanisms for registration of complaints and the procedure for investigation need to still be worked out as without them, the Bill would be reduced to a mere statement of intent. There is also a pressing need to work on and develop preventive social mechanisms against such practices to complement this new legislation.

WAF would also like to congratulate Donya Aziz for having successfully tabled this Bill, the passage of which testifies to the commitment of women parliamentarians to the cause of justice for all citizens particularly women. WAF would also like to lend its support and strongly urge the passage of other women centered legislations like the Domestic Violence Bill and the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention (Amendment) Bill, along with strengthening the law on Honour killings.

November 18, 2011

Statement on incident at MC Model Girls High School in Rawalpindi

Women’s Action Forum is deeply disturbed and shocked at the recently reported incident at MC Model Girls High School in Rawalpindi. This attack by 70 masked men who intimidated and injured students and teachers on Saturday, October 8th has spread a wave of fear and terror across the city’s educational institutions. Such attempts by malicious and radical extremist groups to dissuade girls from attaining education point to a calculated move towards denial of the right to education of women.

Reports suggest that the police deliberately delayed its response and ignored pleas for help. Such insensitivity and complacency from State institutions is appalling and in gross violation of basic rights of citizens to security and protection from violence.

We demand that the CM Punjab take the responsibility for registering FIRs against all those madrassa students immediately and to ensure that those responsible are punished accordingly in this incidence and as an example to those who take on the role of the ‘moral’ policing whether violently or by intimidation. This must not be allowed to happen again.

The Chief Minister and his government must take primary responsibility of the provincial government to safeguard the right to education of girls and boys alike and protect them and their teachers/principals from vicious attacks. Given the appallingly poor rates of female literacy (45% for Pakistan), and primary and secondary education such acts are likely to deter parents from sending daughters to school. A more conducive environment to encourage the entry of girls into the education mainstream is a prerequisite towards the empowerment of women. Tolerance and giving impunity to politico religious groups or forces will continue to hold the development of women to ransom.

WAF Lahore calls upon the civil society in Pakistan to strongly condemn such actions. At the same time it extends its support for the school administration and affected families and urges them to not let such actions discourage them from sending their girls to school.

October 12, 2011

Press release: Mukhtar Mai appeal

Women’s Action Forum is deeply disturbed by the Supreme Court Judgment in the Mukhtar Mai appeal. This judgment not only exacerbates Mukhtar Mai’s anguish, but also raises broader concerns for the protection of women’s dignity in Pakistan and deterrence of violence against them. Unfortunately, this judgment could send a strong signal of impunity for perpetrators of crimes against women.

WAF fears that this judgment has set back the efforts being made to secure justice for women, particularly in cases of rape. The apex court is expected to give guidance for correcting flaws and failures of investigation and prosecution in order to ensure that justice is provided by the system. WAF believes that the sanctity of the principles of due process and fair trial are in no way compromised by an approach in judicial scrutiny that is both aware and sensitive to social realities and institutional flaws.

It is precisely to safeguard against injustice that the Constitution provides the possibility of review, even of apex court judgments. The Supreme court judgment in Mukhtar Mai’s appeal is a prime example of a case that merits serious review by the full bench of the Supreme court. It is all the more evident because of the comprehensive dissenting note by one of the three esteemed judges who has appraised the facts and evidence available on record in a different light to convict the acquitted accused.

The State under its duty to protect now has the primary responsibility to seek a review of this judgment. It is imperative that the government takes immediate steps in this respect if it wishes to establish its good faith in claims of promoting women’s right to justice.

WAF calls upon civil society to continue their support of Mukhtar Mai and to insist on protection and justice for her and other women in Pakistan suffering similar injustices.

WAF takes exception to comments made in public statements challenging the integrity of rights based groups and their demands for justice for victims of abuse, oppression and exploitation. The human rights community in Pakistan is justly proud of the role it has played in making visible social and legal trends that have result in discrimination and prejudice against the weak and the vulnerable. It is these groups that have consistently upheld values of democracy, human rights and the independence of judiciary.

WAF and the human rights groups in Pakistan will continue to promote the cause of justice despite the attempts to silence civil society by those who have an interest in perpetuating the status quo. WAF intends to monitor the steps taken by the Federal and the Punjab government to protect Mukhtar Mai. We will also closely watch government’s initiative in keeping the judicial process alive in this case.

April, 2011

Press Release: Shahbaz Bhatti

Women’s Action Forum (WAF) strongly condemns the brutal murder of Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti

Women’s Action Forum (WAF) condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affair, Shahbaz Bhatti who took a principled stand for justice to those victimized by misapplication and misuse of the law.  The slain was one of the few political leaders who continued to resist radical forces and speak up against extremist elements. His murder is the latest in a series of events attempting to silence the voices of all those not in agreement with their views by using illegal and violent means to impose militant religious ideology undermining democratic dialogue. It is part of a malicious campaign for deliberately misusing religion to provoke and incite violence. Such actions are a gross violation of the rights of minorities as embodied in the Constitution of Pakistan and make them more vulnerable to violence and aggression.

WAF urges that such actions must not be tolerated. These forces must not be allowed to thrive and prosper. They must be held accountable for their actions and stopped immediately and effectively, from making a mockery of the state, its legal system and its law enforcement agencies. The state must formulate a strategy to punish perpetrators of such actions and break the cycle of impunity. This is absolutely critical to safeguarding the life, livelihoods and sanity of all citizens of Pakistan.

It is high time for political forces to play their expected role and not avoid responsibility to steer the nation on a saner path rather than succumbing to pressure from mischievous elements. No nation can survive in an environment where debate, discussion and dialogue are not possible because of fear, and where intimidation is used as a political tactic for the furtherance of interests harmful to the country. The media in particular must use its influence to inculcate a culture of peace and intolerance in society.

WAF expresses its heartfelt support for the aggrieved family, the Christian community and all those victimized by such actions. We appeal to the Pakistani nation to not be influenced by destructive forces that use religion or politics to further lower the potential for peace and prosperity in our country.

March 4, 2011

WAF’s tribute to Benazir

Women’s Action Forum wrote the following poem in memory of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007:

Requiem for Benazir Bhutto

Women’s Action Forum grieves.
It grieves with Bakhtawar, Bilawal and Asifa,
It grieves with Nusrat and Sanam Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari,
It grieves with all members of the Bhutto family,
It grieves with the PPP and all PPP workers and supporters,
It grieves with the poor and the oppressed,
It grieves with and for our country and the people of Pakistan,
WAF grieves.

Benazir Bhutto lived a tragic and tumultuous life,
Fraught with pain and loss,
A celebrated life,
Of success and exhilaration,
One that reached out and responded to the anguish and hope of people,
And articulated and converted these hopes, giving sustenance to so many.

Women’s Action Forum while sometimes critical of her policies
Took pride in the fact that she was a woman.
A woman who controlled her own destiny,
A woman who instinctively and wholeheartedly
Embraced equal rights and opportunities,
For women and religious minorities,
A brave woman, a woman of courage.

As with her father, ZA Bhutto,
Look for her in moments that need fortitude,
Look for her in moments that need courage,
Look for her in hope,
Look for her in all those she touched.

Women’s Action Forum grieves.

WAF Press Release on Salmaan Taseer Assassination

Women’s Action Forum condemns in the strongest terms the brutal murder of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, whose principled stand for justice was deliberately and maliciously distorted by extremist elements in the country in the pursuit of their own political ends. Incitement to violence in the name of religion has become widely prevalent in the country and the state has failed in its duty to curb this mischief. The murder of Salman Taseer is part of a strategy adopted since the time of Ziu-ul-Haq to misuse religion in order to undermine democratic dialogue and to establish religious autocracy. This is unacceptable in a Muslim majority country no particular group should be allowed monopoly over religious views.

This must stop now!  There must be a strong and effective law in this country to hold accountable elements that are deliberately provoking and inciting violence in the name of religion. This is critical for safeguarding the right to life and security of the people of Pakistan is safe guarded.

It is high time for political forces to play their expected role and not avoid responsibility to steer the nation on a saner path rather than succumbing to pressure from mischievous elements. No nation can survive in an environment where debate, discussion and dialogue are not possible because of fear, and where intimidation is used as a political tactic for the furtherance of interests harmful to the country.

The real issues before us are those of economic stability, peace, security and well being of the people. These issues are being overshadowed by campaigns of hatred that are pitting citizens against each other.

The media has a great responsibility to adopt policies encouraging freedom of expression and public debate. At the same time, they must restrain elements within themselves who are misinforming and misleading the public on events and issues.

We appeal to the Pakistani nation not to be influenced by destructive forces that use religion or politics to further lower the potential for peace and prosperity in our country.

January 2011


Women’s Action Forum (WAF) or Khawateen mahaz-e-Amal is a consciousness-raising group aimed at enabling women to fight for their rights. WAF is committed to a just and peaceful society based on Democracy and to the separation of religion from the State and from politics. It is also a lobby-cum-pressure group committed to protecting the rights of women by countering all forms of oppression. It is non-hierarchical, non-government and not affiliated to any political party, WAF does not accept funding from government, non-government or International agency. It seeks to bring together individuals and organization on a common platform for women’s rights.


  1. Women have the right to life, liberty, dignity, freedom of movement and security of person.
  2. Women are equal partners in the development of the country and should be recognized as such.
  3. Women have the right to determine their lives according to their own aspiration.
  4. Women have the rights to: education; the right to hold any public or private office; to work; to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment and the rights to equal pay for equal work.
  5. WAF upholds fundamental rights of women, children and men. WAF oppose all form of discrimination on the basis of sex, class, colour, race, religion or creed, as laid down by the United National Charter of Human Rights to which Pakistan is a signatory.
  6. Women have the right over their mental, physical, social and economic well-being and matters pertaining to their person.
  7. WAF does not believe in enforced segregation.
  8. WAF condemns sexual abuse and exploitation of women and believes in promoting a positive image of women.
  9. Women have the right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life.