by Taylor Marsh
After what happened in the Swat region, this was easily foreseen, especially with President Karzai's popularity plummeting and an election on the horizon. The Independent's article today also throws a shadow, maybe even complications, across Obama's Afghanistan strategy. From The Independent:
... Critics claim the president helped rush the bill through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of elections in August.
In a massive blow for women's rights, the new Shia Family Law negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, tacitly approves child marriage and restricts a woman's right to leave the home, according to UN papers seen by The Independent.
"It is one of the worst bills passed by the parliament this century," fumed Shinkai Karokhail, a woman MP who campaigned against the legislation. "It is totally against women's rights. This law makes women more vulnerable." [...]
That extremism is hitting the Af-Pak region just as President Obama unveils his new strategy, with Secretary Clinton in the Hague making our case today, should be a chilling signal to us all.
While the government insists the legal change will allow only a limited application of Islamic justice through the local courts, the Taliban interprets it as allowing the full application of Sharia, affecting all aspects of education, administration and law and order in the region.
However the deal may be interpreted, it is an unmistakable defeat in the country's losing battle against Islamic extremism. Even though the military regime of former President Pervez Musharraf entered into several controversial, short-lived cease-fires with the Pakistani Taliban in the Pashtun tribal belt, Musharraf's army never conceded major changes in the legal or political system.
In all the arguments against Obama's Afghan strategy, many coming from the left, what the President's commitment means to women is rarely in the mix. But how can any country be stable without women as part of the political mix? The answer is simple and sobering. It can't.
We'll have to see if any reporter on the trip with Clinton asks her about this latest development aimed at women, compliments of Pres. Karzai. Mrs. Clinton has shown her commitment to women's rights as human rights as first lady, so it's a perfect question to ask. As an independent journalist, unfortunately, I don't have a seat at that table, because I don't have a new media (or traditional) sponsor. But if I did it would be the first question I'd ask.