Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 74

Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Violence Against Women

Pakistan—Assassination of Female Provincial Minister of Social Welfare

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on February 20, 2007, Zill-e-Huma Usman, a provincial minister of social welfare in Pakistan, was murdered. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz described her as a “committed and dedicated politician.” He said that, “During her short span as minister, she took several steps for the welfare of the people of Punjab.” Her activist role within the ruling Pakistani Muslim League made her a target for Islamic fundamentalists.

Minister Usman was a mentor, a leader and a role model for women in Pakistan who wanted to rise above the harsh injustices inflicted upon her gender, injustices that barred women to the private sphere.

The fanatic man who killed Minister Usman stated, “I have no regrets. I just obeyed Allah’s commandment.” It was his belief that Islam does not allow women to hold positions of leadership. He went on to say, “I will kill all those women who do not follow the right path, if I am freed again.”

Her attacker, Mohammad Sarwar, was held in 2002 for his connection with the killing and mutilation of four prostitutes but was never convicted due to lack of evidence. It is acts such as these that perpetuate the cyclical behaviour of violence against women.

To add further pain to the death of this female parliamentarian, Police Chief Abdul Qadir Qayyum stated, “. . . since fashionable women spread obscenity in the society,” the killer “has been targeting them . . . to purge the society of evil.”

Honourable senators, we all know the Muslim faith respects the social position of women and acknowledges the female face. It does not impose any restrictions that may hamper the social growth and development of the woman. Some progress has been made in bringing the issue of violence against women into the political arena, but much remains to be done.

Zobaida Jalal, Pakistan’s federal Minister of Social Welfare condemned the slaying, calling it an “unbearable loss to the cause of women’s rights” and further stating that we, as leaders, must ensure that women always have a voice. General Musharraf has promised to address women’s rights as part of his moderate agenda and policy of enlightened moderation designed to tackle extremism.

Honourable senators, as parliamentarians, we need to encourage him to do more. We, as parliamentarians, need to work to protect all parliamentarians and all women, not only in our own society but also around the world.