November 04, 2006

Pakistani Judge tells veil wearing lawyer to take it off


In Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, a coalition of Islamist political parties governs the province. In the provincial legislature, a dozen or more women MPs sit in a cluster, covered from head to toe in black burkas, making the speaker's job almost impossible.

No one knows who is behind the burqas as it is not permitted to check the identities of these MPs.
Imagine this in the House of Commons in Ottawa or the US Senate. Imagine the speaker not being able to know who said what or whether the person sitting in Belinda Stronach's chair is Belinda herself or Peter McKay!

The problem of the burka is compounded in the courts, where some lawyers are appearing in veils and the judges cannot see who they are talking to. This came to a head yesterday when the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court ordered a woman lawyer to take off her niqaab so he could see her and hear her.
Here is a report of this incident from the Pakistani newspaper, The Times.

Read and reflect.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Pakistan Chief Justice
says no to veiled lawyers

By Akhtar Amin

Daily Times, Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Tariq Pervaiz Khan has ordered women lawyers not to wear veils in courtrooms, saying they (the women lawyers) could neither be identified nor assist the court well in veils.
“You (women lawyers) are professionals.

You should be dressed as requisite for the lawyers. We (the judges) cannot identify women lawyers wearing veils and doubt that veiled lawyers appear in court several times seeking adjournments for other lawyers’ cases,” Justice Pervaiz told a veiled lawyer, Raees Anjum, who was seeking adjournment of a case.

The court could barely hear Ms Anjum’s name when she was asked to make her presence for a case she was seeking an adjournment for.
Ms Anjum had to repeat her name several times because of her veil and this led to the chief justice’s observation that women lawyers should not wear veils in courtrooms.

“I was embarrassed when the chief justice asked me not to wear a veil in the courtroom,” Ms Anjum told Daily Times. “I feel more confident in my hijab (veil). I am a progressive Muslim woman who has the courage to follow her faith while living and working in this conservative society.... hijab reflects a woman’s modesty,” she said.

She added that several women judges in the NWFP (Pakistan's province bordering Afghanistan) wear a veil and all MMA (Islamist allaince ruling the province) women MPs are also veiled.
Ms Anjum told Daily Times that there was a difference of opinion in the judiciary on the issue.

“On one hand, Peshawar Sessions Judge Hayat Ali Shah tells women lawyers to wear veils when coming to his court, while the PHC chief justice wants women lawyers appearing in court without veils.”

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