An Imran Khan victory would bode poorly for Pakistani women

If, as Imran Khan claims, his party -- the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -- is victorious in the Pakistani general e...

Posted: Jul 27, 2018 8:56 AM
Updated: Jul 27, 2018 8:56 AM

If, as Imran Khan claims, his party -- the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -- is victorious in the Pakistani general election, the women of that nation may face a disastrous era of gender discrimination and repression.

The clues that Khan's ascent bodes poorly for Pakistani women can be found in the lead-up to the election. In one recent interview with Hum news, Khan denounced Western feminism as an impediment to motherhood. And his promise of making Pakistan an Islamic state, something that has in the past meant heightened restrictions on women, is also making Pakistani feminists shudder.

Ironically, it was the July 6, 2018, conviction of a woman, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, and her father, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for corruption that made room for Khan's victory. With his main opponents sitting in Adiala Jail, there was nothing to stop him.

Leaders from Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League alleged election rigging even before the polls opened. Others pointed fingers at Pakistan's meddlesome military, which may benefit from Khan, a Pashtun Prime Minister, if elected, who could quell any residual Taliban rebellions and orchestrate post-conflict peace. Though Khan denies suggestions that he's the military preferred candidate.

If Khan keeps his pro-military stance and wants to appease the militants within the country, his Pakistan will not be a progressive country committed to gender equality. Religious hardliners in Pakistan have, in the past, opposed legislation that criminalizes domestic violence, saying that would "westernize" society. They are unlikely to change this stance.

And many of these extremist hardliners have now been empowered by Khan claiming victory in Pakistan's disputed elections. They include Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, one of the early leaders in the anti-Soviet mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s -- which eventually gave birth to the Taliban and al Qaeda. Khalil also led, according to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, a designated terrorist organization that has since been banned by the government.

The mission of Khalil's group, which speedily announced support for Khan's PTI after meeting one of its top leaders,Asad Umar, includes putting an "end [to] secularist, obscene and risqu- culture on media" and giving "support to fighters" that are safeguarding the respect of the Holy Prophet. That "support" included pushing for the release of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin who shot down Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, in 2011 because Taseer had the temerity to defend a Christian woman accused of blasphemy. (Qadri was eventually executed, but hailed as a martyr at his funeral attended by thousands of people.)

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the province that Khan's PTI party controlled, 277 million rupees were allotted to the Darul-Uloom Haqqania, a religious seminary known to have links with the Tehreek-e-Taliban, a militant group that some PTI member have links to.

If these religious hardliners, who share Khan's anti-Americanism and ultra-nationalism, make up the dominant voice in a PTI-led government, it will be game over for Pakistani women.

Religious hardliners want to implement Sharia law and have long supported increased prosecutions under the Zina and Hudood Ordinances of 1979, which criminalize adultery and fornication. Vaguely written, the laws institute sentences of lashings and even stoning to death -- and have been used to imprison women at the mere accusation of illicit behavior.

Increased prosecutions under these laws, which equate control of women as being authentically Islamic and doggedly anti-Western, will destroy the legal and political progress Pakistani women have made in recent years. When women's progress is seen as a western concept, the result is unending suffering and retrogression for all Pakistani women who want to move toward gender equality.

Khan's personal life is not a repository of hope either. His second wife, Reham Khan, made accusations of domestic abuse when the pair divorced (Khan denies the claim). And, there was the scandal from August, when Ayesha Gulalai, a young lawmaker from Khan's own PTI, alleged that Khan had sent her indecent and inappropriate text messages. Khan denied the allegations and the PTI women'a wing threatened to send her to a tribal council for judgment if she didn't withdraw them.

But Khan could choose to sideline Islamist hardliners and refuse to use restrictions on the visibility of women as symbols of his political power. To silence feminist critics who are dreading Khan's promised "change" and anti-Western rhetoric as a disavowal of women's rights, Khan could install PTI women in important positions within his cabinet. Selecting a woman as Pakistan's Foreign Minister or Interior Minister or both would send a message of hope and inspiration to all Pakistani women.

Khan could also avoid the petulance of previous Pakistani leaders who seek to immediately undo the reforms of their predecessors as soon as they come into power. Take Punjab's Women Protection Law, which has allowed for the criminalization of domestic violence. The resources the law has provided at the district level has allowed for the arrest of abusers and their public shaming.

Opposed by religious hardliners, the law has been a crucial intervention in a country where every second a woman reports facing violence in the home. If Khan wants to represent all Pakistanis, women included, he should expand the Punjab legislation to the whole country.

It is also possible that Khan will choose this latter path. Many Pakistani expatriates living in the United States and United Kingdom have supported his candidacy, arguing that his program for a self-sufficient Pakistan, no longer dominated by the usual cadre of feudal and industrialist families, is compelling. Khan's commitment to these expats is evident in the PTI manifesto, which devotes a separate section to them. This constituency, interested in a visibly progressive Pakistan that is a part of the international community, could serve as a check on religious hardliners and pressure Khan to take an inclusive stance toward women.

Pakistani women know never to expect much from their leaders, scarred as they are by continual disappointments. Perhaps Khan has been waiting to win before he commits to improving the lot of his nation's women. If that is so, then this is the time to do it, take a stand as a pro-women prime minister whose anti-feudal and anti-corruption platform ushers not a regressive dystopia where Pakistani women must hide and huddle, but one in which they can proudly rise and lead.

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 63°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 57°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 64°
Rockville
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 61°
Casey
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 64°
Brazil
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 63°
Marshall
Few Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 63°
Turning Cooler
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 295720

Reported Deaths: 8916
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1454625225
DuPage17786563
Lake17151488
Will14239382
Kane13285326
St. Clair6747192
Winnebago6300151
Madison5828143
Champaign481821
McHenry4653118
Peoria355552
McLean332523
Rock Island307177
Kankakee277677
Unassigned2562244
Sangamon247945
Kendall205425
Tazewell180927
LaSalle175857
Macon163645
DeKalb162239
Coles150831
Williamson142649
Jackson127625
Clinton122221
Adams119910
Boone115323
Randolph95811
Effingham8833
Vermilion8304
Whiteside78421
Ogle7486
Knox7043
Monroe69016
Grundy6876
Henry6795
Morgan67423
Bureau67112
Jefferson64138
Marion5732
Macoupin5677
Christian56511
Franklin5523
Stephenson5486
Union52424
McDonough49015
Logan4691
Crawford4664
Fayette4376
Woodford4327
Livingston4086
Shelby4084
Cass40411
Jersey39817
Lee3941
Montgomery38913
Iroquois36819
Saline3624
Perry35815
Bond3426
Warren3342
Douglas3187
Wayne3005
Jo Daviess2752
Lawrence2633
Carroll2386
Greene23513
Hancock2283
Moultrie2224
Richland2206
Cumberland2195
Washington2191
Jasper21210
Fulton1900
Clark1833
Pulaski1831
White1760
Johnson1630
Wabash1623
Mason1611
Clay1590
Piatt1430
Mercer1415
Pike1391
De Witt1292
Menard1281
Massac1172
Edgar1168
Marshall1110
Ford1085
Alexander851
Scott800
Gallatin752
Hamilton742
Henderson710
Brown690
Edwards680
Putnam630
Calhoun620
Stark562
Schuyler500
Hardin390
Pope301
Out of IL30

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 120019

Reported Deaths: 3632
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21671768
Lake10772325
St. Joseph6763116
Elkhart6755112
Allen6411206
Hamilton4997110
Vanderburgh390632
Hendricks2789125
Monroe270837
Tippecanoe265213
Johnson2383126
Clark229357
Porter223347
Delaware204162
Cass19619
Vigo190628
Madison173575
LaPorte153241
Warrick142847
Floyd142064
Howard134164
Kosciusko130117
Bartholomew120357
Marshall102924
Dubois102119
Boone100346
Grant97237
Hancock95143
Noble93532
Henry83027
Wayne78115
Jackson77910
Morgan73940
Shelby68929
Daviess68429
Dearborn67928
LaGrange65111
Clinton64414
Harrison60124
Putnam59211
Gibson5606
Knox54410
Lawrence53029
Montgomery51222
DeKalb50111
White49114
Decatur46339
Miami4394
Greene43236
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3997
Scott39611
Posey3712
Sullivan33912
Jennings31812
Clay3155
Franklin31525
Ripley3098
Whitley2956
Orange28924
Adams2833
Carroll28313
Wabash2758
Starke2747
Wells2734
Washington2702
Spencer2693
Huntington2543
Jefferson2543
Fulton2472
Tipton23323
Randolph2308
Perry22613
Jay1931
Pike1771
Newton17511
Owen1721
Martin1690
Rush1584
Vermillion1330
Fountain1302
Blackford1243
Pulaski1141
Crawford1110
Parke1112
Brown1023
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland680
Warren411
Unassigned0227