Apology demanded from Mr Farogh Naseem for making sexist remarks in Court

Published on June 14th, 2020

Civil society including members of women’s rights platforms, cultural groups, youth activists, legal community, academicians, litterateurs, and other activists have expressed their outrage and have strongly condemned what they say have been highly derogatory, inflammatory, unconstitutional, and openly sexist and misogynist remarks made on June 12, 2020, by Mr. Farogh Naseem, the government counsel, during a hearing of the government’s reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

As reported in the media, when the bench asked Mr. Naseem to explain under which law the judge was personally obligated to declare assets belonging to his spouse, who is an independent taxpayer, he could not quote any valid Pakistani law or legal obligation, and instead resorted to quoting from the Quran.

When the bench asked if Mr. Naseem was implying that this eliminates the independent legal status and capacity of women under Pakistani laws, he provided no legal response and did not retract his previous statement.

‘We strongly condemn Mr. Naseem’s legal and intellectual dishonesty, and his misuse, misappropriation, misrepresentation of the Quranic text and context, falsely attempting to create the illusion of a legal argument where none exists’, read the statement.  ‘This case is far too important in the history of Pakistan’s judicature, and the development of its jurisprudence, for it to be perniciously diverted and misguided into insignificance.  Mr. Naseem has abused his professional duty to assist the Hon. SCP, but instead is trying to mislead it into assailing and demoting the legal status and capacity of Pakistani women.

The Quranic verse Mr. Naseem quoted, does not eliminate, or even limit, women’s legal independence regarding their personal financial matters.

What Islamic Law Says About Women

It was stated by the activists that all schools of Islamic law are unanimous in their assertion that women have the legal capacity to deal with their own financial and property matters independently.

The statement also informed that in his classical work titled “Muhammadan Law” (Volume-2), renowned learned scholar, jurist and authority on Muslim Law, Mr. Justice Syed Ameer Ali, for the purpose of Islamic jurisprudence in the Subcontinent, explicated that marriage is essentially a contract between two parties, and does not automatically give the parties the right to each other’s property; that the legal capacity of the wife is not subsumed under that of her husband; and that the wife retains full power to use and dispose of her property at her discretion, even to the extent of entering into contracts without her husband’s consent or permission. He clarified that she is not under her husband’s legal guardianship, and may even sue him.

The activists condemning Mr Naseem’s remarks said that no legal practitioner – especially an advocate of the Supreme Court – could possibly be ignorant of the above rights – well established in Fiqh and protected by the Constitution of Pakistan and the laws operating under it.

They said that Mr. Naseem appears to have forgotten that non-Muslim women are also equal Pakistani citizens, with Constitutional and legal rights.  “Thus, his crude attempt to mislead the Court with such a Machiavellian exploitation of religion in a purely legal case, is a coldly calculated, deliberate attempt to muddy the waters and to divert the Court towards a dangerous direction in the current milieu in Pakistan,” they said.

Apology Demanded

Following these statements the activists unanimously demanded that at the next SCP hearing, Mr. Farogh Naseem must publicly acknowledge, apologize for, and retract his dishonest, fallacious arguments; as well as publicly reaffirming, in open Court, his recognition and acknowledgement of the legal, Constitutional status and capacity of adult married Pakistani women to deal with their financial and property matters independently of their spouse.

Rights activist Tahira Abdullah strongly endorsed the statement and emphatically reiterated the demand for a public apology in open Court.

Others also weighed in.