Abortion hotline in Pakistan faces criticism

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London, June 27 (ANI): Islamic groups and political parties are severely criticising an abortion hotline in Pakistan.

The helpline is under fire for being "anti-Islamic" and "colonial", even though it is expected to save the lives of thousands of women who die every year in local abortion clinics.

The hotline, set up by a collection of women's groups in Pakistan and the Dutch pro-choice group Women on Waves, guides women how to use a drug to induce miscarriage safely and aims to reduce the estimated 890,000 unsafe illegal abortions performed in Pakistan every year.

"There will be very strong opposition. This could create misuse. It cannot be done as free choice under our law and our religion," The Independent quoted Ahsan Iqbal, of the Pakistan Muslim League as saying.

Figures from the Population Council of Pakistan show that the country has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, with 320 women dying for every 100,000 live births - compared to 13 per 100,000 in the UK.

"We want to save women's lives," said Gulalai Ismail, founder of the Pakistani women's group Aware Girls, which is helping to set up the hotline.

"We are empowering women, and trying to give them information to help them take control of their bodies. Any groups which try to help women will have problems with extremist and fundamentalist groups. Ninety-nine per cent of clerics will oppose this," Ismail added.

However, Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission has warned the organisers that they risked punishment.

"To go against the majority like this might be seen sympathetically in the West, but it will be counterproductive and will create huge problems. At best, they are misguided, at worst they are trying to provoke. It is part of the colonial idea that the West's way is the best, and that is not the case," Shadjareh said. (ANI)

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