Feminists & lawyers lash out at Pak judge for hurting woman’s dignity in ‘un-Islamic’ marriage case verdict against Imran & wife

ISLAMABAD, Feb 4: The controversial judgement in the ‘un-Islamic’ marriage case of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife has created a storm in Pakistan, with feminists and women lawyers criticising the judge for violating the settled principle of law on the issue and hurting the dignity of a woman by prying open private affairs like menstruation.
Senior Civil Judge Quratullah sentenced Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi to seven years in jail and imposed a Rs 5,00,000 fine on each for “contracting marriage during the ‘iddat’ (period of waiting)” in a case filed by Bibi’s former husband Khawar Maneka in November last year.
The first couple had married on January 1, 2018, and Maneka approached the court about six years after the marriage, alleging that the two married without Bibi completing her ‘iddat’ and that the two were also in an adulterous relationship even before marriage.
The proceedings were held in the Adiala Jail of Rawalpindi for security reasons. The 71-year-old former cricketer-turned-politician has been held in jail since he was arrested on August 5 last year after a conviction in the Toshakhna corruption case.
Bushra Bibi, 49, has been imprisoned at the Banigala residence of Khan following her conviction.
The judge set aside the nikah of January 1, 2018, by announcing the sentence under Section 496 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which read: “Whoever, dishonestly or with a fraudulent intention, goes through the ceremony of being married, knowing that he is not thereby lawfully married, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall be liable to fine.”
Khan and Bushra Bibi are still in a “legitimate relationship” as the court ruled that their second nikah performed on February 14, 2018, was legal.
The case attracted criticism as it was deemed as an intrusion by the court in private affairs.
Lawyer and political commentator Reema Omer said that from Maneka’s statement that his wife was “absolutely normal” in her menstruation to Judge Qudratullah questioning whether “any sort of meeting in isolation” by namehram (stranger) male and female is permissible in Islam – this judgment is shameful and a travesty of justice, human rights”.
“The proceedings + convictions in the “iddat case” (or specifically, “going through a marriage ceremony fraudulently without being lawfully married”) are a damning blot on our justice system. Horrifying, the State stooped this low seemingly just to humiliate IK, Bushra Bibi,” she wrote on X.
She also said that by “making a woman’s menstrual cycle the subject of criminal inquiry (as well as public debate), this case has cast a blow to women’s right to dignity and privacy, as well as their freedom to make decisions about divorce and marriage without fear of being dragged in court”.
Nighat Dad, lawyer and feminist, in her comments, termed the verdict an “appalling miscarriage of justice” and said that it “epitomises the grotesque intrusion into women’s private lives, stooping to the extent of public humiliation.
It is a brazen assault on women’s autonomy, dignity, & privacy, a dangerous precedent for state overreach into personal spheres”.
She said despite several amendments enacted in Pakistan to shield women from legal abuse related to adultery and fornication if the state whimsically invokes sections 496 & 496-B PPC, it renders women’s protection merely illusory in the face of arbitrary state power.
“This egregious ruling echoes the dark history of the 1980s Zina Ordinance of Zia era, highlighting how powerful entities can introduce & wield flawed laws as weapons against individuals, brazenly trampling upon the constitutional principles of dignity and privacy,” she wrote on X.
Dad went on to say that the judgment was not just about one woman but a chilling glimpse into a future where thousands of women in this country could face similar injustice based on this repugnant judgment.
Maleka Bokhari, lawyer and a former PTI leader said that it was a “dark and regressive day” for the rights of women and girls across Pakistan because a former first lady who lawfully divorced her former husband, and remarried has been convicted in a weak case with the judge ignoring the law laid down in Supreme Court judgments, dictates of shariah law and Federal Shariat court judgments.
“This flawed judgment has set a bad precedent, opened floodgates and witch hunts against women and girls by their former husbands. Women & feminists – I hope this will be condemned unequivocally by all of us,” she said in a statement on X.
Another women lawyer, Rida Tahir, the judgment violated the ruling of Justice Zia Ali Bajwa of the Lahore High Court who held that re-marriage without observing the period of iddah cannot be treated as a void marriage.
“Today’s judgement is a huge blow to women’s human rights and opens the door for maligning the character of women and turning them into social outcasts,” she said on X. (PTI)