Pakistan MPs in rape law protest

Islamabad, Pakistan - PAKISTANI opposition MPs walked out of federal parliament today in protest at the government's proposed amendments to Islamic rape laws.

Rights groups have been demanding the government repeal the current laws, which place an almost impossible burden of proof on women and expose victims to charges of adultery.

Opposition MPs, mostly from the hardline Islamic alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, shouted slogans and tore up copies of the bill before walking out after Law Minister Wasi Zafar introduced the legislation to change the laws.

"Death to (President Pervez) Musharraf", "Those who are friends of America are traitors" and "Allah is Great," the politicians shouted.

"This bill is against Holy Koran and Shariah, we reject it and (will) try to block it in any possible manner," said opposition leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman.

MPs of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto did not boycott proceedings.

The law minister said the "Women Protection Bill" would be referred to a select committee of parliament.

Pakistan's cabinet decided earlier this month to change the 27-year-old laws introduced by the late military dictator General Ziaul Haq, who wanted to enforce a strict Islamic code.

Under Islamic laws imposed by Haq in 1979, women must produce four adult Muslim male witnesses to prove an act of rape. Women who fail to prove rape can be jailed or even sentenced to death for adultery.