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Pakistan delays Sharia law changes after rape jurisdiction deal fails

[JURIST] The government of Pakistan [JURIST news archive] has delayed introducing legislation that would change Islamic rape and adultery laws after a deal with Islamist parties over a watered-down version of the 2006 Protection of Women Bill [BBC report] fell through, according to Pakistani officials Thursday. Earlier this month, members of an Islamist alliance threatened to quit the Pakistan parliament [official website] over the original version of the 2006 Protection of Women Bill [BBC report], which would have revised the so-called Hudood Ordinances [Pakistan Government backgrounder] by removing rape from religious rule and moving it to the penal code. Under the anticipated compromise with the Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] opposition group, however, rape would come under the jurisdiction of both legal regimes.

Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) [party website], allied with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League [party website], have expressed outrage at the government's decision, criticizing conservatives for wanting the country to remain in "medieval times." Human rights and women's groups are highly critical of the current Islamic law on rape, which mandates a rape victim to face prosecution for adultery if she cannot give the names of four male witnesses to the alleged crime and allows a woman to be sentenced to death if she commits adultery. The Pakistani government says it wants additional time to reach a consensus between the opposing parties before the bill is formally introduced into Parliament. Reuters has more; AKI/DAWN has additional coverage.

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