ISLAMABAD, Mar 9 (APP): President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday signed the ‘Protection Against Harassment of Women Bill 2010’ with a pledge to pursue the commitment made by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for the emancipation and uplift of womenfolk.“We have to create a Pakistan where the coming generations, my daughters, can be proud of the fact that they live as equals. We will make sure that those who wish to harm the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam which was for equality, for men and women, shall not succeed,” said the President.
He was addressing a gathering of women from different walks of life, after signing the historic legislation here at the President House.
The President promised in the name of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto that “we shall do our utmost by the end of this tenure, and all the rights, that we enjoy as men shall be enjoyed by women as well.”
The President recalled the commitment made by the Shaheed leader at the Beijing Conference and in the CEDAW document, and urged the government to seek guidance from her vision to achieve gender equality.
President Zardari recalled the struggle and sacrifices of her late wife Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and said she was the symbol of strength, bravery and courage.
“My wife was much stronger than me, even today she left a legacy for us to follow, even she is guiding us from her grave.”
He said she coined the phrase “democracy is the best revenge and said the whole philosophy of Pakistan Peoples Party has revolved around that phrase - that not revenge, but freedom is the revenge.
He mentioned how late Benazir Bhutto would have felt when she walked into Sukkur jail at the age of 21 as she tried to fight for her imprisoned father.
“Fighting like no other person I have ever seen. And throughout her life she made sure that the legacy which her father gave life for, stayed alive”
He said history might mention him as a person who was “living a woman’s dream”. It was her dream that a women in power would bring in the soft touch that the world needs amidst too much horror and said “what we need to emulate is gentleness, perseverance and the quality to bear pain.”
The President said both his sisters were the members of parliament, while her two daughters would be back after completing their studies to serve the nation, along with their brother.
He paid rich tribute to the women who over the generations had strived for their rights since long and described them as “really a tribute to God’s divine creation.”
He also lauded the role of women which they played in history and said all religions accord them due regard, dignity and honour.
“Let us mobilize the collective power of women to help make our country, the region and the world more tolerant and secure for all,” the President said amidst a loud applause.
The enactment of the Protection Against Harassment of Women Bill 2010 aims at creating a safe working environment for women, which is free from harassment, abuse and intimidation, he added.
President Zardari appreciated all those who showed a broad-based support to the bill during their deliberations in both the houses.
He also noted the support to the bill by various citizen forums and appreciated them for working with the government to achieve this common goal and attributed it to the struggle of the women for their rights and equal opportunities.
President Zardari said the struggle for the rights of women in Pakistan has been long and difficult.
“We believe in equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women,” he added.
President Zardari earlier signed a bill on January 29 to uphold the dignity of women as their basic right and to seek an end to violence. The bill aims at making women feel safe both in private and public spheres, while the other bill that he signed today aims at providing mechanism for addressing complaints of harassment.
“On this occasion I urge all ministries to get going and adopt the Code of Conduct within a month, as laid down in this Act,” the President directed.
“I also urge the private sector to cooperate in the implementation of this Act, in letter and spirit,” President Zardari said.
“This is what Mohtarma Shaheed Benazir Bhutto struggled for throughout her life...We shall take her vision forward for the women of Pakistan,” the President said.
The present government has taken a number of measures for improving the lot of women including the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), provision of state lands in the command areas of the 13 new dams for poor women, creation of office of Women Ombudsman, increase in job quota for women in central and provincial departments.
The bill signed by the President aims at creating a safe working environment for women that is free of harassment, abuse and intimidation with a view towards fulfillment of their right to work with dignity.
The bill requires all public and private organizations to adopt an internal Code of Conduct and a complain or appeals mechanism aimed at establishing a safe working environment, free of intimidation and abuse, for all working women.
Under the bill each organization shall constitute an Inquiry Committee, comprising of three members - including one female member, within 30 days to enquire into complaints.
Upon receiving a written complaint, the inquiry committee would give the accused a formal written receipt of the charges and statement of allegations levelled against him within three days.
The Inquiry Committee shall have power to regulate its own procedure for conducting an inquiry and for fixing the place and time of its sittings.
The event was attended by Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Kaira, Minister of State for Finance Hina Rabbani Khar, Minister of State for Religious Affairs Shagufta Jamani, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Social Sector Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Chairperson Benazir Income Support Program Ms Farzana Raja, Advisor to Prime Minister on IT Latif Khosa.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali spoke at length about the long struggle for the enactment of the legislation and said Shaheed Benazir Bhutto took significant initiatives for the rights of women and termed the signing of Bill a landmark event.