Constitutional Bases Of Muslim Laws In Pakistan Society – OpEd


The foundation of an Islamic state in Pakistan was laid down by a proposal of the first Constituent Assembly in March, 1949, called ‘Objectives Resolution’. Among other things it noted, whereas the sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust; whereas the founder of Pakistan, the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, declared that Pakistan would be a democratic state based on Islamic principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice as enunciated by Islam…… wherein adequate provisions should be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their culture…….. so that the People of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honoured place among the nations of the world and make their full contribution towards international peace and the progress and happiness of humanity’.

The dictum of ‘Objective Resolution’, since then, became a core of Pakistani politics and society as well. The later constitutions of 1962 and 1973 promulgated during the regime of Ayub Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, respectively were structured on the basis of these parameters.

Detail discussions and 1962 Constitution

Detail discussions were held on this Resolution and it met with two kinds of criticism. The Congress members of Eastern Wing held the view that it was a mixture of religion and politics while others criticised it because there was no provision for social change and no guarantee of the fundamental liberties of the people. From the start it was pointed out that protection of non-Muslims’ “rights, privileges and status” was one of the duties enjoined on the Muslim by Islam.

Religious freedom is an important component of Islam. An Islamic society worth its name must follow the Quranic dictates like ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’. This is a message that has been repeated in the Holy Quran in different and from a variety of angles.

Then there is an entire Sura (109) devoted to the message of co-existence of all religions. It concludes : Lakum Deenokum Waleya Deen, that means, to you be your faith, and to me mine. This same message is repeated in a different context in the verse of the Holy Quran (3:84) : The Prophet is told that Muslims must believe in the revelations brought by all previous prophets and asked to say : We make no distinction between any of them. Thus, suppression of other religions or making any distinction among them is akin to Kufr (disbelief) in Islam. Apart from this, the Hadees and the Sunnah of the Prophet as well as books of Islamic law show clear preference for untrammelled religious freedom. The concept of religious freedom is dear to Islam.

The founders of Pakistan had thought about the application of Islamic principles in the new state, but they were essentially Westernised secularists, who treated the Islamist parties as nuisances, to be placated with occasional concessions.

However in both the constitutions definite provisions were made to give the structure a pro-Islamic theme. Part X of the constitution of 1962 made a mandatory provision for the establishment of an Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology. The Council was to consist the number of members neither less than five nor more than twelve as the President decided. The members to be appointed by the President on such terms and conditions as he may decide. The functions of the Council were to make recommendations to the Central Government and the Provincial Governments as to the means of enabling and encouraging the Muslims of Pakistan to order their lives in all respects in accordance with the principles and concepts of Islam and to advise the National Assembly, the Provincial Assembly and the President, or the Governor on any question referred to it.

Further under Article 270 of the Constitution, Islamic Research Institute was provided whose members were to be appointed by the President. Its duty was to undertake Islamic research and instruction in Islam for the purpose of assisting in the reconstruction of Islamic society on a truly Islamic basis.

Except for minorities such as Hindus and Christians, the promulgation of the first constitution of Pakistan was a disappointing one. Ayub received most of the congratulations from his basic democrats who had much vested interest in the new system. Maulana Ghulamullah who later became the Ulema to the President said in Rawalpindi on 8 March that he had not congratulated the President on the Constitution and that the document left much to be desired from the Islamic standpoint. Undoubtedly, thanks should go to the President for an act of courage that he did not seek to appease the religious orthodoxy by providing that all laws should be in conformity with the Quran and Sunnah. Only the more or less universally accepted Islamic principles were made the yardstick for assessing the laws. The non-Muslims were in theory guaranteed the right to profess, practise, and even propagate their religion, though this clause caused some heart-burning among the diehard supporters of Islam.

Christians, in particular, heaved a sigh of relief on seeing the constitution as it put an end to the practice in some Karachi schools of compulsory Christian religious instruction to non-Christian pupils. It also made it obligatory for all schools to provide for the teaching of the quran and Islamiat for all Muslim students. The Hindu population of West Pakistan praised the Constitution while the Hindus of Eastern part mostly refused to comment. It seemed that they were either indifferent or were with the mainstream of non-conformist opinion.

Provisions of 1973 Constitution

With a view to legitimize his rule Zia began to talk in terms of holding the 1973 constitution in abeyance rather than abrogating it and claimed to be working towards creating structures for an Islamic state and society within Pakistan. He started with a series of ‘reforms’ designed to bring law in various areas of activity in conformity with the tenets of Islam.

The radical Islamisation of Pakistan began under Zia when he drafted the Ulema or mullahs to legitimise and extend his unconstitutional rule. In the process several controversial Islamic provisions were inducted in the constitution, which later proved to be so damaging to the Constitution and the rights of the people. It is widely held that they changed the very complexion of an otherwise non-violent Pakistani society. The shameful Hudood laws curbing the rights of the women, redefining law of evidence, amending the blasphemy law, establishing Federal Shariat Court and revising religious laws to create rifts among various sects were some of the more obscurantist changes.

Zia exploited religion to the hilt. Despite a solemn pledge, a defiance of which is strictly prohibited in Islam, he delayed the return of democratic government for eleven long years. He misused religion to prolong his despotic rule. Political workers were awarded harsher punishments including lashes for speaking against the government.

Large social effects of Zia’s rule

At political level Zia’s supporters included fundamentalist and reactionary parties of Islamic attitude. Many of the changes had the imprint of the Jamaat-e-Islami, from which members were soon provided for the Zia cabinet. Support for Zia’s ‘Islamic’ package was formidable, especially in the Punjab. It came from the lower middle class in the urban centres, part of the bourgeoisie that had been disenchanted with Bhutto’s style of governance and policies, as well as artisans, petty shopkeepers and workers returning from the middle East and elsewhere.

The latter had improved their economic standing but had remained socially and politically conservative. They felt more comfortable with Zia’s Islamic, status quo, orientation as opposed to Bhutto’s socialist rhetoric. Unfortunately, some sectarian groups, Sipah-i -Sahaba and Tehrik-i-Jafena also surfaced and flourished under Zia’s patronage. Ethnic parties especially MQM and its rival group Haqiqi were also said to be creation of the martial law administration.

The reactionaries astonishingly, were so naïve as to expect the army to make over power to them after it had overthrown a functioning democratic order. However, their minds were soon disabused and the Generals decided they deserved to rule themselves. Thus, their hopes soon belied as the Zia’s regime began to beat the Islamic drum louder and louder. Some rightists felt pulled in his direction; others like the JI and Muslim League, despite their resignation from his cabinet, remained in his pocket.

Zia’s attempt to Islamise and legitimise his rule for a new lease of life had further polarised country’s social segments. It came to be linked to the precepts of a particular brand of Islam and led to sectarianism, with religion becoming enmeshed within political controversies. He started a calculated move to part between Sindhi and non-Sindhi, Sindhi and Mohajir.

The hanging of Bhutto had further widened the gap not only between the Sindhi in rural areas and the military regime but also with the people of Pakistan, in general. The new incident had created an overt hostility between the military and the Sindhi population. The Sindh province also witnessed the military increasingly as a Punjabi force acting against the interests of the Sindh and the power of central government became identified with a particular ethnic group.

In order to undermine the political support of PPP in Sindh Zia encouraged the Mohajirs who constitute about 20 per cent to come together under one political platform, and it was for the first time that an All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation was formed in 1978. Though the dividing situation in Sind had its roots in history as well as in cultural and economic development, Zia was responsible overtly and covertly for the confrontation in both rural and urban region of the province. As the changes brought about by Zia were meant to provide legitimacy for his regime as well as strengthen his political constituency among the petit bourgeoisie as well as that section of the middle class and the feudals who favoured a strong centre.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is a University Professor for the last 20 years and presently Head of the P.G. Department of Political Science, B.N. Mandal University, West Campus, P.G. Centre,Saharsa (Bihar), India. In addition to 17 books published so far there are over 250 articles to his credit out of which above 100 are from 30 foreign countries. His recent published books include Transformation of modern Pak Society-Foundation, Militarisation, Islamisation and Terrorism (Germany, 2017),and New Surroundings of Pak Nuclear Bomb (Mauritius, 2018). He is an authority on Indian Politics and its relations with foreign countries.

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