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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ISLAMABAD9711
2006-05-26 04:59:00
CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Embassy Islamabad
Cable title:  

NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR SUPPORTING WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN

Tags:   PHUM  KWMN  EAID  PGOV  SOCI  PK 
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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ISLAMABAD 009711 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2016
TAGS: PHUM KWMN EAID PGOV SOCI PK
SUBJECT: NEW POSSIBILITIES FOR SUPPORTING WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN
PAKISTAN


ISLAMABAD 00009711 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Derived from DSCG 05-01, b and d



1. (C/NF) Summary: In an introductory call with the
Ambassador on May 25, recently appointed Minister for Women's
Development and Youth Affairs Sumaira Malik provided an
overview of her key programmatic priorities, offering new and
valuable areas for immediate and medium-term USG assistance.
Malik assured the Ambassador that her top priority is repeal
of discriminatory provisions of the Hudood Ordinances and
further reform of honor killing legislation. The Ministry
has already launched a surreptitious campaign to generate
public demand on these issues intended to gin up legislative
support. Complementing this campaign, the Ministry intends
to embark shortly on awareness-raising activities designed to
highlight women's rights and highlight full participation of
women in Pakistani society. Recognizing the importance of
improving protection for victims of violence against women,
Malik intends to expand the Ministry's 20 crisis centers to
every district of the country and establish a 24-hour hotline
through which victims can seek the centers' support. Centers
would be tied-in with the newly established crime cell in the
Interior Ministry, which would assume responsibility for
investigation of cases of violence against women.
Emphasizing the need for economic empowerment of women, Malik
discussed Ministry plans to establish skills centers and
micro-credit schemes along the lines of the Grameen Bank to
promote female entrepreneurship. Malik was eager for USG
cooperation in these priority areas, and post believes these
offer viable avenues to channel both immediate funds
available from DRL and future funds from USAID. End Summary.

Repealing Discriminatory Legislation



2. (C/NF) In a May 25 meeting with the Ambassador, Minister
of Women's Development and Youth Affairs Sumaira Malik
emphasized the high priority she placed on prompt repeal of
the remaining discriminatory legislation against women,
including the Hudood Ordinances. Malik stated that any
legislation that is un-Islamic and/or that violates women's
human rights had to go. She shared that the Ministry was
working in concert with private television channels to launch
a below-the-radar campaign to build support both for Hudood
Ordinance repeal and Honor Killing Law reform. At the
Ministry's request, private television channels had begun
airing debates and news editorials on these issues to
generate public awareness on and demand for the reform of
this legislation. Private television station Geo has also
purchased public service announcements in local English
language daily The News, highlighting the need for Hudood
Ordinance repeal. Through this public awareness and
education strategy, Malik hopes to blunt the inevitable

criticism that will come from Islamist quarters once the
bills are introduced. The Ministry intends to introduce the
bills in the National Assembly following conclusion of the
budget session that takes place in June.

Improving Victim Protection



3. (C/NF) Malik admitted that local police have a poor track
record on and little experience in the proper handling of
cases of violence against women and that the federal
government needed to do a better job of protection of victims
of such crimes. At present, the Ministry operates 20 crisis
centers that provide basic assistance and referral services
for victims of violence against women. These centers exist
principally in urban areas and their efficacy varies
dramatically. Malik has obtained funds in the current
budgetary cycle to expand the number of these centers and
ensure that all are equipped, at a minimum, to provide free
legal counseling services. Ultimately, Malik intends to
establish a crisis center in each district, providing a full
range of victim counseling and support services.


ISLAMABAD 00009711 002.2 OF 003




4. (C/NF) As a first step to improving victim access to these
centers, the Ministry is launching a 24-hour helpline the
week of May 29. This will connect victims directly to center
staff who can provide immediate assistance in dealing with
local law enforcement and obtaining protection. Malik is
working with the Interior Ministry to have helpline staff
linked to the newly established crime cell. Once this
happens, the crime cell would assume responsibility for
violence against women cases from local police services.
Malik argued this would ensure better handling of such cases
by trained police personnel and would prevent local
influentials (feudal landlords, tribal chiefs, jirgas) from
interfering in the investigation.

Economic Empowerment



5. (C/NF) Arguing that the GOP had done a great deal for the
political empowerment of women (i.e., increased
representation in legislative bodies at all levels), the next
critical step is the economic empowerment of women. As a
first step, Malik highlighted that in the upcoming budget she
had secured funds to provide development money to local women
councillors. This will enable them to launch appropriate
women's development schemes in their districts. In addition,
the Ministry is keen to examine possible federal support,
including the establishment of skills training centers and
micro-credit schemes similar to the Grameen Bank. In this
way, female entrepreneurship could be promoted. Malik also
expressed strong support for women's quotas. Ten percent of
government civil service jobs have recently been set aside
for women, and the Ministry is now pressing the private
sector to follow suit. Publicizing female entrepreneurs will
help convince other women that they too can participate
actively in the economic/business sectors.

Public Relations



6. (C/NF) Malik was highly critical of her predecessors'
moribund public relations strategy that she claimed had
failed to highlight the government's positive steps towards
women's empowerment, lacked a strong public education
message, and allowed an inaccurate picture of the country to
be portrayed in the western media. Malik argued that a more
proactive strategy could address these deficiencies. After
the conclusion of the budget debate in June, Malik intends to
launch a strategy that would include mass education for women
(and men) about women's rights and opportunities through
media and direct public meetings. As part of the strategy,
the Ministry would highlight the achievements of successful
women in the business, political, and academic fields and
encourage others to follow in their footsteps. The
Ambassador also encouraged Malik to highlight victims of
abuse as part of the strategy in order to educate others
about their experiences. Malik requested USG assistance in
trying to change the negative image about women's rights in
Pakistan in the western media. Ambassador noted that
positive attention by the GOP in the area's discussed
previously would no doubt receive substantial western media
coverage.

Comment



7. (C/NF) Post feels strongly that the best way to promote
women's rights in Pakistan is through direct, continuous
engagement with the government. In the new Women's
Development Minister, we have a constructive counterpart who
has both a vision and concrete plans that can help to improve
women's human rights in this country. Providing assistance
to one or more of the various initiatives that she has
identified as her priorities would have a significant impact.
We urge that immediate resources identified by DRL and
medium-term resources projected by USAID should be utilized
in support of the government's overall initiatives, rather

ISLAMABAD 00009711 003.2 OF 003


than one-off projects through NGOs or individuals. This
would help to ensure sustainability, give us greater leverage
over government policies in this area, encourage business
participation in the proposed economic development projects,
and allow us to multiply our limited resources with
counterpart funding from the GOP. As an initial focus of our
program, we would recommend that DRL funds be used to support
the Ministry in the upgrade of a select number of women's
crisis centers to provide full counseling and assistance
services, as well as to establish a credible working
relationship between the centers and the Ministry of
Interior's crime cell. End Comment.
CROCKER