The outspoken Fauzia Wahab denounces religious extremism – by Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
Pakistani lawmaker briefly trades death threats at home for serenity in Southern California
The outspoken Fauzia Wahab denounces religious extremism and reflects on her homeland’s future.
It has been a harrowing few months for liberal Pakistani lawmaker Fauzia Wahab. Islamic militants assassinated two of her government colleagues. Gunmen tried to kidnap her son, and effigies of her were burned at rallies.
A trip to the U.S. this month to attend a seminar hosted by her congressional peers in Washington provided a brief respite from the turmoil. After a week of meetings, she took time off to visit her sister in Orange County, where she browsed in bookstores and took in a show about the Beatles — without armed guards in tow.
“It’s a beautiful place,” she said over tea last week at her sister’s home in Laguna Niguel. “Beautiful and serene.”
As the former spokeswoman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, Wahab has gone head to head with Islamic hardliners and right-wing media outlets, denouncing religious extremism and defending her country’s weak, U.S.-allied government.
She received death threats after saying that CIA contractor Raymond Davis, accused of killing two Pakistani men in January, has diplomatic immunity and should be released. Although she said this was her personal view, the party asked her to resign as information secretary.
Colleagues advised Wahab to keep a low profile. For weeks, she hunkered down inside the Karachihome she shares with her husband and three children from their previous marriages. For the first time in her 23-year political career, she was assigned a police escort, but she is embarrassed to step outside with the guards.
“It’s so horrifying … those policemen jumping out of the car and taking up position with their rifles in their hands,” she said, laughing.
Although President Asif Ali Zardari‘s government has launched military strikes against some militant enclaves, it has done little to staunch the radicalization spreading through Pakistan’s universities, political parties, media and legal community.
Most leaders have stayed silent on the issue that cost Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer their lives earlier this year. Both men were outspoken critics of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, which make it a crime to insult Islam, the Koran or the prophet Mohammed.
Wahab said she had publicly defended Taseer’s call for a pardon of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman facing the death penalty on allegations that she defamed Islam.
“I said that Asia is the daughter of the soil,” Wahab said. “What wrong did he do if he went to her and comforted her and assured her that she will be given clemency?”
Another Pakistani legislator, Sherry Rehman, proposed a bill to amend the laws, reportedly prompting several clerics to issue religious edicts declaring her fit to be killed.
“It’s strange, but gradually it is women who are wearing the trousers now,” Wahab said. “When Shahbaz Bhatti was killed, I remember so many people came and said: ‘And now it’s your turn, be careful, run.’ ”
Despite the danger, she said she won’t be silenced by extremists.
“I want my country to become enlightened,” she said. “I want my country to become a tolerant society. I want my country to become a plural society, and I want my country to have a strong democratic system.”
She is troubled by U.S. moves to open direct talks with the Afghan Taliban, saying their extremist views are spreading in Pakistan.
“Everybody talks about the [U.S.] drone attacks, but nobody talks about the suicide attacks,” she said.
Wahab was with Zardari’s late wife, Benazir Bhutto, during a devastating 2007 suicide attack on her homecoming rally that killed more than 150 in Karachi. Bhutto escaped unharmed but was killed 10 weeks later in a gun-and-bomb attack as she left a campaign event in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
“We need courageous people,” Wahab said sadly. “And Benazir Bhutto was one of them.”
Wahab, who doesn’t wear a veil, said she does not like to be “demonstrative” about her faith. She was raised a devout Muslim but said she was allowed “all kinds of liberties” growing up, including a good education and the right to speak out within the family.
Encouraged to read, she said, she is drawing inspiration from a biography of John Quincy Adams she picked up in the U.S.
“It’s an interesting read,” she said, “a person who could not be defeated.”
Her sister, Bushra Mateen, shakes her head.
“Please,” she said, “have some mercy on yourself.”
Source: LA Times
Judicial [dictatorship] system is our enemy: US PPP leaders
Aziz M Mian
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
RAWALPINDI: The judicial murder reference filed by President Asif Ali Zardari in the Supreme Court has been supported at the ceremony organised by the US branch of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) under Fauzia Wahab to pay glowing tribute to PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Delivering controversial and extremely charged speeches, some of PPP office-bearers said: “The judicial system is the enemy of the PPP. We have to face these circumstances due to the judicial system. We have to do struggle regarding what is happening in courts and what has happened in courts”.
PPP office-bearer Waheed Khan demanded cases be filed against some of judges of superior courts.PPP US chapter president Tanveer said judiciary was being given a chance that it sought pardon for its role played in the past, and reform itself.
Severely criticising the media, Fauzia Wahab said the media was doing partial and anti-PPP reporting. She severely criticised the Jang Group without naming it. “We will complete our five-year term, even though plots are orchestrated against us through media, courts or provincial governments,” she added.
This is for the first time in the history of Pakistani community based in the US that demand has been raised to file cases against sitting judges, while naming them. One of the organisers of the ceremony said the land of the US did not fall in the jurisdiction of the Pakistani judiciary.
“We have freedom; therefore, such demand does not fall in the category of contempt of court. And this demand is rightful,” the organiser added.
Extra cover for 4 women who dare to speak out
PTI, Apr 4, 2011, 05.45am IST
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani law enforcement agencies have stepped up security details for three liberal women lawmakers and a human rights lawyer, including former minister Sherry Rehman, because of threats from extremists, according to a media report.
The four women had spoken out against militants the Express Tribune said. They are PPP leader and ex-minister Sherry Rehman, former PPP spokesperson Fauzia Wahab , PML-Q parliamentarian Kashmala Tariq and supreme court bar association president Asma Jahangir.
Their families are not safe: the son of anti-blasphemy law MP Fauzia Wahab escaped a kidnapping attempt just a fortnight ago.
Loud and combative, Fauzia Wahab is unafraid to denounce mullahs or defend deeply unpopular America. In recent weeks, however, the liberal lawmaker has sat hunkered down in her home in Karachi, rarely stepping out her front door.
Islamic militants elsewhere in Pakistan have assassinated a Cabinet minister and a prominent governor since the first of the year. But the Taliban and other violent extremist organizations aren’t the only cause for concern.
The killings of Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti this month and Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer on Jan. 4 have also exposed just how deep extremism has seeped into Pakistani society.
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Pakistan+handles+Islamic+extremism+with+gloves/4530304/story.html#ixzz1JO3xtXa8
Former PPP spokesperson Fauzia Wahab attracted the ire of religious extremists when she made a statement claiming that US citizen and CIA operative Raymond Davis had diplomatic immunity.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 03rd, 2011.
Apr 3, 2011 – 1:00PM
These four women are the real “Qaum ki betis”.
They have shown unmeasurable courage in standing up against the religious barbarians,against extreme misogyny present in the men of our society.These women are a true inspiration for anyone who has stood up against all that has ever been wrong in the world.
The only crime these women have committed is that they have dared to challenge the roles fixed by the men in our society for women to play,they have refused to be ashamed of their gender & have chosen to stand up to be counted as humans equal to men.
we are Fully supporter Of Ms Fouzia wahab Style of spokesperson .she is Really dedicated and Ideal Jeyala of PPP !
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The outspoken Fauzia Wahab denounces religious extremism – by Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times