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Afghan women’s rights should be an issue for the Muslim world, says Pakistani FM

NEW YORK CITY: The plight of women in Afghanistan under the Taliban is not just a matter of concern for the wider international community, “it should be a problem for the Muslim world” to address, Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said. Foreign Affairs, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, to Arab News Friday.

Since the Taliban took control of Kabul in August 2021, following the withdrawal of Western troops from the country, two decades of progress in women’s rights to education, employment and empowerment have been considerably backward. As a result, calls have been made for the international community to step up pressure on the regime to reverse the trend.

Bhutto Zardari said that while Pakistan waits with the rest of the international community for the “interim Afghan regime” to deliver on its original promise that girls would be allowed to go to school and get a secondary education, the issue should also be one “for the Muslim Ummah” in particular.

“Because Islam is what gave women their rights in the first place,” he said. “Islam is what guarantees women their rights to participate in society and their rights to education.

“So we expect, not only in Afghanistan but around the world, that women not only be guaranteed these rights, but also that these rights are protected.”

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urges the Muslim Ummah to ensure that the Taliban do not deprive Afghan women of their rights. (AFP)

Bhutto Zardari’s mother, Benazir Bhutto, was the first woman to lead a democratic government in a Muslim-majority country.

Naheed Farid, a women’s rights activist who in 2010 became the youngest politician elected to Afghanistan’s parliament, this month urged world leaders to brand the Taliban a “sexist apartheid” regime.

Speaking to reporters in New York, she said, “Afghan women are living through one of the greatest human rights crises in the world and in human rights history.

“What is happening in Afghanistan is gender apartheid. I am not the first to say this. But the inaction of the international community and policy makers in general makes it important for all of us to repeat this whenever we can.

Farid called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other multilateral bodies to create a dedicated platform for Afghan women to negotiate directly with the Taliban on issues of women’s rights and human rights.

Bhutto Zardari, who is currently Chairman of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC, told Arab News that “before the expiration of our chairmanship”, he plans to organize an event, under the auspices of the organization, to focus on women’s rights in Islam.

The minister also referred to the visit this week of a Pakistani-American delegation to Israel, the second such visit after a similar visit in May. The visits have sparked speculation that Pakistan could turn the page on its relationship with Israel, possibly paving the way for normalization.

The group visiting Israel this week includes prominent American Muslims, South Asian Americans and members of the American Council for the Empowerment of Muslim and Multifaith Women. The delegation said its objective was to “continue the peacemaking efforts which began with the visit of the first delegation of interfaith leaders (and) to help foster Pakistan-Israel relations and Pakistan’s bond with the agreements of Abraham”.

However, Bhutto Zardari said the delegations had “nothing to do with the government” of Pakistan and there were no official discussions regarding Pakistan’s joining the Abraham Accords, a series of agreements. recent normalization agreements between Israel and a number of Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“Let me repeat: Absolutely not,” Bhutto said. “Pakistan’s position on the question of Palestine is clear and always has been.

“Regarding these delegations, I believe there is some kind of international non-governmental organizations that send people between countries or civilizations, as far as I know.

“It has nothing to do with the government…but every time some of these NGOs organize these interfaith or interconnected events, it happens because some of the people who attend are dual Pakistani nationals or have some sort of connection to Pakistan, it is promoted in social media as a component of our foreign policy, which is absolutely not the case.

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