THE INTERNATIONALNETWORK 
     FOR THE RIGHTS OF FEMALE VICTIMS 
     OF VIOLENCE IN PAKISTAN
  (INRFVVP)
 
Open Letter to General Pervez Musharraf 
(25 February 2000)

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Given below is the text of an open letter to General
Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan,  by Dr. Riffat Hassan,
Founder-President of the INRFVVP. This letter was published in PAKISTAN
TODAY on February 25, 2000. This Los Angeles based newspaper is the
largest newspaper serving the Pakistani-American community in the U.S.
The website address at which the following letter can be accessed
is : www.paktoday.com (February 25, 2000 - Look under "COMMUNITY")
      This open letter to the Chief Executive is the first direct
communication of the INRFVVP with the government of Pakistan.  It raises
fundamental issues relating to gender-justice and women's rights in
Pakistan.  It welcomes the recent statements by representatives of the
government that the highest priority is being given to adopting policies
and plans of action aimed at eliminating discrimination against women.
But it underscores the fact that bringing about changes in the negative
cultural ideas and attitudes toward girls and women widely prevalent in
Pakistan will require both strong political will and moral courage.
       Members and Friends are urged to engage in a discussion of the
critical issues raised in the open letter.  You can send your responses,
reactions or comments to the INRFVVP listserv or to PAKISTAN TODAY 
at . The INRFVVP considers it extremely important
that at this time when the new government of Pakistan seems to be open 
to examining and redressing the inequities and injustices suffered by a
large number of  Pakistan's female population,  a very clear and
powerful message be sent to General Pervez Musharraf that the eyes of
the world are upon him. By promoting and protecting the rights of women
the new government of Pakistan can go a long way toward building the
country's moral foundation and its international reputation. Please
write today and also forward this letter to other concerned persons who
may be willing to support the cause of seriously disadvantaged human
beings.
     An update regarding the recent activities of the INRFVVP will be
sent to you shortly.
 

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH,  AR-RAHMAN,  AR-RAHIM

AN OPEN LETTER TO GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF
Chief Executive of Pakistan

21 February, 2000

Dear General Musharraf,

           As salaam o 'alaikum

I am writing this letter to you on several accounts.  I write to you as
a person born in Lahore, Pakistan, who was educated in England and has
lived in the United States  since 1972, but whose heart, mind and soul
have remained rooted in the land of my birth.  I write to you as an
academician whose life has been spent in studying, reflecting, writing
and teaching, who is deeply concerned about the intellectual crisis and
the state of education in Pakistan.  I write to you as a Professor and
researcher in the field of  religious studies who has been engaged for
more than twenty-five years in a systematic, theological study of
women-related issues in the light of normative Qur'anic teachings and
the ethical principles of Islam.  I write to you as a human rights
activist who has travelled from one end of the Muslim world to the other
and in much of the Western world, addressing the problems of
contemporary Muslims, particularly those relating to women, youth and
others who are marginalized and discriminated against in Muslim
societies and communities.   I write to you as a Muslim woman who has
dedicated her life to working for the upliftment and empowerment of
girls and women who have been  deprived of the rights given to them by
God by the self-styled custodians of  "the Islamic way of life".  I
write to you as a representative of those who understand Islam to be an
essentially open, liberal and progressive religion who was a major
spokesperson for this perspective at the United Nations World
Conferences held at Cairo (1994), Copenhagen (1995), Beijing (1995),
Istanbul (1996), and the Hague (1999).  I write to you as one of the
commentators on ABC's  Nightline Program entitled  "A Matter of Honor"
which showed the BBC documentary ("Murder in Purdah") on "crimes of
honor" in Pakistan,  in February 1999, and founded an organization
called The International Network for the Rights of Female Victims of
Violence in Pakistan (INRFVVP)  in response to the overwhelming reaction
generated by this powerful film. I write to you as a thinker profoundly
influenced by Allama Iqbal on whose philosophy I wrote my doctoral
thesis at the University of Durham in England, who regarded "Ijtihad" or
the exercise of reason as "the principle of movement in history" and who
conceptualized what became Pakistan as a land where Muslims would 
have the freedom to actualize all their God-given potentialities and become
worthy of being called  God's vicegerents on earth. I write to you
because I am heartbroken at what has become of my beloved homeland which has been looted, plundered and betrayed in every way by those who had sworn before God to preserve and serve it. I write to you because I
believe that without a solid intellectual and moral foundation no
genuine or lasting social transformation can take place and it is
critically important to realize that the crisis faced by Pakistan today
is not only a political or economic crisis but is - much more
fundamentally - an intellectual and moral crisis.  Finally, I write to
you, General Musharraf, because I believe that you are a sincere leader
seriously committed to what the Qur'an refers to as "forbidding the
wrong and doing the right", who wants to rebuild Pakistan according to
the vision which Allama Iqbal and the Quaid-e-'Azam had of this country
created with so much struggle, sacrifice and suffering Writing this
letter to you, General Musharraf,  is - in the final analysis - an act
of faith on my part.  It is my prayer that this letter reaches you (and
does not end up on the table of some bureaucrat who will assign a junior
officer to make a summary of it for onward transmission) and that you
will read it with the same earnestness with which I write it.
If I had the opportunity to talk to you face to face, General Musharraf,
there are so many things I would want to discuss with you.  But in this
letter I want to focus your attention on the issue of gender equality
and gender justice in Pakistan. Pakistanis, like other Muslims, never
tire of saying that Islam has given more rights to women than any other
religion.  Certainly, if by "Islam" is meant "Qur'anic Islam," the
rights that it has given to women are, indeed, impressive.  Women
partake of all the fundamental rights strongly affirmed by the Qur'an.
These include the right to life, the right to respect, the right to
justice, the right to freedom from any kind of authoritarianism
(religious, cultural, political, economic ), the right to privacy, the
right to protection from slander, backbiting and ridicule, the right to
acquire knowledge, the right to work, the right to sustenance, the right
to a secure place of residence, the right to the protection of one's
personal possessions, the right to the protection of one's covenants,
the right to move freely and the right to leave one's place of origin
under oppressive conditions.   Additionally, girls and women are also
the subject of much particular concern in the Qur'an.  Underlying much
of the Qur'an's legislation on women-related issues is the recognition
that women have been disadvantaged persons in history to whom the Muslim
"ummah" is called upon to do justice. Unfortunately, however, Muslim
tradition, like the traditions of other major religions of the world,
developed in patriarchal cultures which were male-centred and
male-controlled and reduced women to the status of chattels or inferior
creatures.
        Since Pakistan is overwhelmingly a Muslim country and - in fact - 
is the only country in the world which was created in the name of Islam, it 
is important to place women-related issues in Pakistan in the larger
context of Muslim history and culture. A  brief review of the latter
brings to light many areas in which - Qur'anic teaching notwithstanding
-  women continued to be subjected to diverse forms of oppression and
injustice, often in the name of Islam, and, what is far worse, in the
name of a just, merciful and compassionate God. While the Qur'an,
because of its protective attitude toward all downtrodden and oppressed
classes of people, appears to be weighted in many ways in favor of
women, many of its women-related teachings have been used in
male-dominated Muslim societies against, rather than for, women.  Muslim
societies, in general, appear to be far more concerned with trying to
control women's bodies and sexuality than with their human rights. Many
Muslims when they speak of human rights either do not speak of women's
rights at all, or are mainly concerned with how a woman's chastity may
be protected (They are apparently not very worried about protecting
men's chastity)
        There is much research and documentation to substantiate the contention that girls and women are generally the most common target of 
the most serious violations of human rights which occur in many Muslim societies, including Pakistan. Female children are discriminated against 
from the moment of birth, for it is customary in Muslim societies, including
Pakistani society, to regard a son as a gift, and a daughter as a trial,
from God.  Therefore, the birth of a son is an occasion for celebration
while the birth of a daughter calls for commiseration if not
lamentation. Many girls are married when they are still minors, even
though marriage in Islam is a contract and presupposes that the
contracting parties are both consenting adults.  Marriage in Islam
cannot be contracted without the willingness and consent of both parties
but a large number of Muslim girls and women are prohibited from
exercising the right of free choice given to them by God.  There have
been a number of well-publicized  cases in Pakistan in recent years
where the marriage of an adult man and woman against the wishes of their
respective families led to "crimes of honor" and even ethnic violence.
(The issue of  "forced marriages" of girls and women of Pakistani origin
has become a major social and political issue even in some Western
countries such as the United Kingdom)  Even though so much Qur'anic
legislation is aimed at protecting the rights of women in the context of
marriage, it is hardly possible for Muslim women to claim equality with
their husbands.  In Pakistan it is commonplace to refer to the husband
as "majazi khuda" (or god in earthly form ) and  regard him as his
wife's gateway to heaven or hell and the arbiter of her final destiny.
That such an idea can exist within the framework of a strictly
monotheistic Islam which does not tolerate the attribution of divinity
to any human being and which puts a strong emphasis on the moral
accountability of each person, represents both a profound irony and a
great tragedy.
        Although the Qur'an presents the idea of what we today call a
"no-fault" divorce and does not make any adverse judgments about
divorce, in a number of Muslim societies including Pakistan, divorce has
been made extremely difficult for women, both legally and through social
penalties. The murder of Sami'a Sarwar who wanted to exercise her
Islamic right to opt out of an abusive marriage, on April 6, 1999, in
the office of her lawyer in Lahore shows that seeking a divorce can
sometimes lead a Pakistani woman to a brutal death.  Although the Qur'an
states clearly that the divorced parents of a minor child must decide by
mutual consultation how the child is to be raised and that they must not
use the child to hurt or exploit each other, in most Muslim societies,
women are deprived both of their sons (generally at age 7) and their
daughters (generally at age 12). It is difficult to imagine an act of
greater cruelty than depriving a mother of her children simply because
she is divorced. Although polygamy was intended by the Qur'an to be for
the protection of orphans and widows, it is often used in Muslim
societies as the Sword of Damocles which keeps women under constant
threat. Although the Qur'an gave women the right to receive an
inheritance not only on the death of a close relative, but also to
receive other bequests or gifts during the lifetime of a benevolent
caretaker, the idea of giving wealth to a woman in preference to a man,
even when her need or circumstances warrant it, is repugnant to many
Muslims. Although the purpose of the Qur'anic legislation dealing with
women's dress and conduct, was to make it safe for women to go about
their daily business (since they have the right to engage in gainful
activity as witnessed by Surah 4: An-Nisa' :32) without fear of sexual
harassment or molestation, a large number of Muslim girls and women,
including those from Pakistan, are confined to the "chardewari" (i.e.
the four walls of the house) . Here it may be pointed out that according
to the Qur'an , confinement to their homes was not a normal way of life
for Muslim women but a punishment for "unchastity".
         That there is a big gap or discrepancy between the ideals
of Islam and Muslim practice, particularly in the context of
women-related issues, is all too evident.  The challenge here is
two-fold, General Musharraf.  The first is to create an awareness
amongst Muslims, including Pakistanis, regarding the fact that much of
what is legitimized in the name of "Islam" is, in fact, contrary to the
normative teachings of Islam  The second is to motivate them, through
various means of education and dialogue, to reform and reconstruct those
elements in popular culture which are in violation of the lofty
ethical principles embodied in the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet of
Islam (peace be upon him),  as well as universally accepted  norms of
human behavior.
        I have been engaged for more than twenty-five years in facing this
challenge especially with reference to the situation of women in
Pakistan and other Muslim societies and communities. In many of my
writings I have given compelling evidence from the Qur'an and other
sources of normative Islam to show that woman and man are created equal
by God and are equal in the sight of God.  And if God who is the arbiter
of ultimate value, created woman and man equal then their subsequent
inequality in any society - including Pakistani - cannot be seen as
having been willed by God.  I have taken what I learned in my early life
from Allama Iqbal and later from my study of the Qur'an, to many diverse
groups in many countries of the world.  The message  - in one sense - is
a simple one. God created all human beings - women as well as men - to
be God's "khalifah" (vicegerent) on earth , and the classic Qur'anic
proclamation about human destiny was translated  by Allama Iqbal as
"Towards God is your limit" (Surah 53: An-Najm: 42)  God gave human
beings fundamental human rights so that they could  actualize the
destiny envisioned for them by their Creator. These fundamental human
rights are so deeply rooted in our humanness that their denial or
violation is tantamount to a negation or degradation of that which makes
us human.  From the perspective of the Qur'an, these rights came into
existence when we did; they were created, as we were, by God in order
that we could develop our human potential to the fullest. Rights created
or given by God cannot be abolished by any temporal ruler or human
agency.  Eternal and immutable, they ought to be exercised since
everything that God does is for "a just purpose" (Surah 15: Al-Hijr: 85
;  Surah 16: An-Nahl:3;  Surah 44: Ad-Dukhan:39;  Surah 45:
Al-Jathiyah:22;  Surah 46:Al-Ahqaf:3)
        Although Islam, like the other major religions of the world which
developed in patriarchal cultures, has been used traditionally to
deprive women of their God-created, God-given fundamental human rights,
I believe very strongly that Islam is profoundly justice-centred and
that it is deeply concerned about the rights of human beings especially
those who are socially disadvantaged. Religion has been, and is being,
used to legitimize all kinds of crimes and evils against women , not
only in Pakistan or other  Muslim countries, but globally. But it is my
belief that if one can separate the normative teachings of Islam from
patriarchal interpretations which reflect negative cultural assumptions,
ideas and attitudes regarding women, Islam can become a most powerful
means of women's empowerment. My statement is based upon the fact that
the vast majority of Muslim women - including Pakistani women - have a
deep faith in God .  This faith has been a sustaining factor in the
lives of millions of them and enabled them to survive in conditions of
great hardship, suffering and oppression.  This faith can become an
empowering factor if instead of being brainwashed into accepting
themselves as less than fully human, girls in Pakistan and other Muslim
societies could be educated to internalize the liberating and
enlightening vision of the Qur'an which Allama Iqbal knew so well and
with which he mobilized the masses of Muslims in India to uplift
themselves.
        I am well aware of the fact that Pakistan is faced today with a
number of very acute  crises.  I can imagine the kind of pressure you
must be under,  General Musharraf.  You have assumed the leadership of
the country when its coffers have been emptied and its people are
totally disillusioned and demoralized.  The social fabric of society
already weakened by a succession of corrupt and callous rulers is being
ripped apart by ethnic, sectarian and communal violence. There are
enemies within and without .  My beloved Pakistan is certainly not in
good health from any point of view.  In the midst of so many serious
problems it must be an ongoing challenge for you, General Musharraf, to
know where to begin, what to do.
        To deal with the multifarious and complex problems that beset 
Pakistan today, you must obviously think about, and do, many things 
which are designed to strengthen Pakistan economically and otherwise. 
One major reason for my writing this open letter to you at this time, General
Musharraf,  is  to emphasize to you the critical need for reflecting on
the whole issue of human rights, particularly the rights of women and
minorities.  Ever since I can remember, rulers in Pakistan have been
worried about economic and political problems I cannot recall any time
when any government in Pakistan seemed to understand that the issue of
human rights or women's rights is not a minor or side issue to which
reference can be made now and then largely to placate world opinion. The
issue of human rights and women's rights is an issue of the greatest
importance for Pakistan today.  It is so important because - first and
foremost - in order to make Pakistan a strong, self-respecting,
self-sustaining country it is essential to build its moral foundations
and this cannot be done until justice is done to those who are the
weakest and the most vulnerable in society. General Musharraf, Abraham
Lincoln had said that a nation could not survive half-slave and
half-free. Likewise, without establishing gender equality and
gender-justice, Pakistan can never become what Allama Iqbal, the
Quaid-e-'Azam , or you General Musharraf, would want it to be. Economic
and military strength, important as they are, cannot stem the rot that
has set in through a long period of intellectual myopia and moral
bankruptcy.  The only way you can start reversing the process of ruin is
by building, brick by brick, a tradition of respecting the fundamental
human rights of all citizens and residents of Pakistan, irrespective of
gender, class, and ethnic, sectarian or religious difference.
        The second reason why it is so important for you to take a strong
initiative in upholding human rights and women's rights is because this
action - more than any other action you could take, General Musharraf, - would win for you the approval and respect of the international community. 
I am sure that you are well aware of the way in which Islam and Muslims 
are negatively stereotyped  in the West, how they are associated with 
images of violence, brutality and backwardness. The mistreatment of girls 
and women in  Muslim societies and communities throughout the world is
always cited to substantiate these images. Having lived in the West for
most of my life I know from experience that there are more negative
ideas associated with Islam and Muslims in the context of women
than on any other account.  What better way is there to challenge or
change these negative perceptions than by instituting a well-defined
policy and plan of action whereby girls and women in Pakistan are
protected from systematic social discrimination as well as domestic
violence?
        After the BBC documentary on "crimes of  honor" in Pakistan was
aired by ABC's Nightline a year ago, I received hundreds of messages from
people, including many Americans and Muslim students of South Asian
(mainly Pakistani) background who had watched the program. Two important
sentiments that were common to these messages were a strong sense of
outrage that vulnerable girls and women were being subjected to so much
brutality and violence in Pakistan, and a keen desire to do something
about this state of affairs.  In response to these messages I took the
initiative of setting up a network called The International Network for
the Rights of Female Victims of Violence in Pakistan (INRFVVP)  This
network of concerned persons grew very rapidly, with members and
supporters in many countries of the world.  It has now become a
non-profit organization with worldwide outreach through internet and
other means of communication. The importance of the work done by the
INRFVVP in terms of raising awareness of the issue of violence toward a
large number of girls and women in Pakistan has been recognized by
Amnesty International and other significant human rights organizations
and agencies in the world.  I have been invited to be a speaker at
several national and international workshops, seminars and conferences
sponsored by Amnesty International since it released its latest report
on Pakistan entitled "Violence Against Women in the Name of Honour" in
September 1999. Due to a number of important events which took place in
1999 - including the airing of the BBC documentary, the publication of
the Amnesty International Report and the setting up of the INRFVVP -
"honor-killings" and "crimes of honor" have become a part of the
critical global discourse on urgent human rights problems which are now
the focus of much discussion and concern amongst people ranging from
grassroots and community-based groups to political leaders and media
personalities.
        I am, of course, aware of the fact that "honor-killings" and "crimes of honor" are - by no means - confined to Pakistan or even to Muslim countries and communities. These crimes have their roots in ancient tribal customs which became incorporated in many cultures.  Nevertheless, it is profoundly regrettable that such crimes should be so widely prevalent in Pakistan, a country whose very name - "Land of the Pure - denotes the idealism of the Muslims of India who engaged in a long and arduous struggle to establish a "homeland" in which the lofty principles of Islam could become actualized 
and institutionalized.
        The BBC documentary which paved the way toward internationalizing the issue of "crimes of honor" has generated much negative reaction 
amongst Muslims and Pakistanis who either have a patriarchal mindset or 
are reacting to what they consider to be "an assault upon Islam and 
Muslims" by those who want to engage in "Islam-bashing", "Muslim-bashing" or "Pakistan-bashing".  Regardless of the intentions of those who made or
broadcast this documentary, the fact remains that the female victims of
violence shown in this film are real human beings who are speaking in
their own voices and whose intense pain and agony we see with our own
eyes.
        To Muslims who accuse those who want to highlight the plight of 
female victims of brutal crimes in Muslim countries, such as Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey or Palestine, of "Islam-and-Muslim-bashing" I would like to make the following statement.  There is nothing at all in normative Islam
embodied in the teachings of the Qur'an and the Prophet of Islam (peace
be upon him) - the two highest sources of the Islamic tradition - which
authorizes or legitimizes the use of violence, particularly toward
disadvantaged human beings.  On the contrary, the Qur'an and the Prophet
of Islam (peace be upon him) were extremely mindful of the fact that at
the time of the advent of Islam in a society in which female infanticide
was practiced, girls and women were victims of serious discrimination
and degradation.  So central was gender-equality and gender-justice to
the world-view of normative Islam that it gave girls and women not only
the right to live and other fundamental rights given to all human
beings, but also many special rights which - taking account of their
weakness and vulnerability in pre-Islamic Arabian society - were
intended to safeguard them from any kind of abuse, oppression or
injustice. There can be no doubt that acts of violence such as are
represented by "honor-killings" or other "crimes of honor" constitute a
very serious form of discrimination toward girls and women and that such
acts which violate the sanctity of human life - the most fundamental of
all human rights - cannot be condoned in the name of any culture or
religion, least of all Islam..
        To those Pakistanis who are in a state of denial about the widespread
incidence of violence toward women in Pakistani societies and
communities and accuse those who want to address this extremely serious
issue of "Pakistan-bashing", I would also like to make a statement.  By
denying, ignoring or obscuring the occurrence of horrible crimes ranging
from having acid thrown on one's face to being set on fire to being
physically mutilated to being murdered - which are documented not only
in the BBC documentary but also in the reports of well-respected human
rights organizations such as Amnesty International as well as in the
findings of many highly-credentialed researchers - one is neither taking
the high moral ground nor advancing the best interests of Pakistan.
 Extremely concerned about the fact that the vast majority of female
burn victims in Pakistan die because they do not have access to any kind
of medical treatment, last summer I went to the annual convention of the
Association of Pakistani Physicians in America (APPNA) to seek the
assistance of this extremely wealthy organization in setting up some
burn units for destitute girls and women in Pakistan. I set up a booth
at which I showed the photographs of actual burn victims and I made two
presentations about their unbearable plight before both female and male
doctors. The wife of the then Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. stopped
at my booth and stated that she had never come across any woman who 
was a victim of violence in Pakistan and that all this fuss about
"honor-killings" was so unnecessary  (She was happy, however, to take a
copy of my book on the rights of Muslim women which she wanted to use 
in her meetings with those who accused Islam of discriminating against
women). The response of almost all the doctors (except a couple of
female doctors) to my pleas for help for the burn victims was extremely
indifferent. In fact, many of them seemed to be irritated that I had
introduced a subject that made them feel uncomfortable in the
carnival-type atmosphere where they had come to have fun. I was greatly
dismayed by the fact that at the same convention the same doctors who
did not want to give even five minutes of their time to hear about
female victims of violence in Pakistan or to see their photographs,
spent a huge amount of money for their evening entertainments and to buy
the high-priced clothes and jewellery which was being sold at the
convention. I am aware of the fact that this association of well-placed
doctors of Pakistani origin raises a lot of funds to do "social service"
in selected areas of Pakistan and that it is very concerned that it
should be perceived as an organization of socially conscious persons.
But any medical doctor - particularly one who professes to be a Muslim
and to love Pakistan - who turns away with indifference or contempt from
even a mention of Pakistani girls and women who have suffered dreadful
injuries as a result of violence is not being faithful to the spirit
either of Islam or of the oath of Hippocrates which doctors take to
uphold the ethics of the medical profession.
        For the sake of clarification and for the record I would like to state,
General Musharraf, that many of us who came forward to create the
INRFVVP are Muslims of Pakistani origin who love both Islam and Pakistan
and would never engage in  "Pakistan-bashing" to please an
anti-Pakistan  or anti-Muslim faction or agency. The sentiments of the
young Pakistanis who have volunteered to be a part of the INRFVVP are
well-expressed by the young woman who said, " I have joined this network
because I want Pakistan to be what it was meant to be.  Iqbal, the great
poet who is considered to be the spiritual founder of Pakistan had
dreamt of a land where people could actually exercise the rights given
to them by God. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam and to me the
essence of Islam is compassion, justice and peace.  Even though I live
in the West, Pakistan is part of my heritage and I want to reclaim it.
The only way I can reclaim it is by joining other like-minded persons
who want to work towards eliminating the wrongs and violence being done
to women and girl-children in Pakistan"
         Given the attitude of the previous governments of Pakistan to
social issues in general, and women-related issues in particular, I
would not have written this letter to your predecessors, General
Musharraf.   At the outset of this letter I have specified my reasons
for writing to you.  Additionally I am encouraged by some statements
made by spokespersons for your government in which serious mention is
made of human rights  violations, including "honor-killings" .  In this
context I want to refer particularly to a statement made by Federal
Education Minister Zubeida Jalal while addressing the last session of a
seminar on "National Consultation on Beijing + 5 Review" held in
Islamabad a few days ago.  Stating that "the government assigns the
highest priorities to all issues relating to the condition of women and
children," the Minister referred to your government's "firm resolve to
equalize rights and opportunities between men and women and remove all
gender discrimination and bias within the shortest possible time." She
also stated that the government had reviewed the current state of policy
and action at the highest level and that concrete actions were being
taken for poverty alleviation, better access to economic resources and
rapid transformation of the social and cultural transformation.
         Heartened as I am by the words of Zubeida Jalal, I want to
point out that there is no "quick fix" to resolving women-related issues
in Pakistan. Having a clear and unambiguous policy which upholds the
fundamental human rights of women unconditionally, and concrete plans
for implementing this policy is, of course, a good beginning.  But my
long struggle in the area of women's rights in Muslim societies and
communities has taught me that trying to change the negative ideas and
attitudes regarding women which are so deeply-entrenched in Muslim
culture, is a formidable challenge. No previous government of Pakistan
has had the moral courage or the political will to live up to this
challenge. Factionalized as the country is, when it comes to upholding
the rights of women - whether alive or dead (as in the case of Sami'a
Sarwar) - an amazing consensus of powerful groups, whether religious,
feudal, tribal or any other, appears to emerge to block the way to any
real breakthrough.
       As stated earlier, a solid intellectual and moral foundation is a
necessary condition for bringing about an authentic and abiding social
transformation.  History has brought us to a point where neither
politically correct statements nor a superficial analysis of the serious
problems of women in Pakistan will suffice to change or even camouflage
reality.   Much hard work needs to be done to examine and understand the
root-causes of discrimination against girls and women in Pakistan
through a systematic and scientific analysis of both theoretical and
empirical data . Once the underlying factors have been correctly
discerned it will become possible to develop and implement plans and
programs aimed at creating an environment which is just and
compassionate and in which the human rights of every child, woman and
man in Pakistan are regarded as sacred.  The task is difficult and
complex but it is my prayer, General Musharraf, that God gives you the
strength and the courage to undertake it. Previous rulers of Pakistan
who have used their power mainly for their self-aggrandizement have
suffered ignominious falls.  It is my prayer that in you, Pakistan, my
beloved bleeding homeland, finds a leader who will serve the interests
not of the high and the mighty, but of the downtrodden and the lowly.
If you succeed in empowering the disempowered, and safeguarding the
rights of those who are nameless and faceless and voiceless in Pakistan,
you will make a different kind of history, General Musharraf.   You will
give back to the people of Pakistan the hope and faith that they have
lost in their leaders and the institutions of their country, and you
will give back to us - expatriate Pakistanis - the desire to go home
again.
        May God be your guide and your help, General Musharraf.  I wish you
Godspeed.

With regards,
Was salaam,

Riffat Hassan

Professor Dr. Riffat Hassan,
P.O. Box 17202,
Louisville,
Kentucky 40217,
U.S.A.
Phone: 502 637 4090
Fax: 502 637 4002
E-mail:
 

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INRFVVP 
P.O. Box 17202, 
Louisville, Kentucky 40217, U.S.A. 
Telephone: 502-634-6754 
Fax: .