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Introducing Islamic laws | By Shaikh Aziz

Being a soldier, General Ziaul Haq was in the habit of planning well before it came time to implement. His plans of introducing an “Islamic code of life” in the country had been laid way back in December, 1978, on the beginning of the new Islamic year.

In a lengthy address to the nation delivered on Dec 2, 1978, the General had first unveiled his plans of introducing “Islamic” laws in the country, claiming that in the past, “many a ruler said whatever they pleased in the name of Islam.” This was set to change.

The speech was regularly punctuated by pledges of a better life, as a consequence of bringing about an Islamic system. The General announced that this reforms process would begin with prayers to be performed by all staff members of government offices and institutions. He also ordered that every office should reserve a prayer space, and nominate a nazim-i-salat (prayer organiser) who could lead prayers on a regular basis. At the time of Friday prayers, all offices and shops were to be shut.

Then there was the establishment of Shariat Courts. As per the new law, Shariat benches would be established at provincial and federal levels, an issue which faced difficulty in implementation. “Every citizen will have the right to present any law enforced by the government before the Shariat Bench, and obtain its verdict about whether the law is wholly or partly Islamic,” Gen Zia explained.

Laws regarding drinking, adultery, loot, robbery and rape were also to be promulgated on Rabiul Awwal 12, the General announced. The most debatable point was the rijm punishment (stoning to death) in adultery cases.

But once the process began, Gen Zia addressed the nation again on Feb 10, 1979 — exactly four days after the Supreme Court rejected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s appeal.

In his second address, the General was pleased to announce that “all major political parties, despite their differing viewpoints, had agreed that an Islamic system should be introduced in this country.”


But perhaps the greatest debate was sparked by Blasphemy Laws. Brought to practice in 1980 by making seven amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code, the new law said that any disregard shown to the Prophet (PBUH) or his family (ahl-i-bait) would be liable to punishment. Blasphemy against the Prophet (PBUH) was punishable by death or a life term and fine. Showing disrespect to the Holy Companions was also made punishable by imprisonment of upto three years.


Islamic measures were, therefore, enforced through Presidential orders and ordinances, under which the existing laws relating to the offences of theft, robbery and banditry, adultery, false charges of adultery and drinking were replaced by punishments proscribed by the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

But the General wasn’t done. Next up, he promulgated the Zakat Ordinance in late 1979, authorising banks and financial institutions to deduct zakat on deposits and saving accounts. This created an uproar among various sects, especially the Shia and other non-Sunni denominations. Shia citizens vehemently argued that their system was quite different from that of the Sunnis.

After two years of protests, the Zia administration finally gave in. They authorised Shia citizens to be able to file an affidavit and ask the banks or financial institution concerned not to deduct Zakat from their deposits. This move also paved the way for believers of other faiths to seek exemption; some also misused the option to evade Zakat deduction altogether and filed false affidavits.

However, the objective of Zakat assessment, deduction and distribution among the deserving poor was defeated from the very beginning, as administrative staff found it easy to make away with large amounts through the appearance of bungling. Some medical institutions and social reform institutions began receiving assistance from Zakat funds to carry out their welfare works, but later, the same money became a source of political corruption and fraud.

Gen Zia also desired to entirely do away with the existing judicial system, arguing that it was based on the Anglo-Saxon law which was introduced by the colonial masters. He made the first move, but it created serious legal, administrative and financial problems. The issue was put in abeyance and never really resurfaced.

The General’s failure in immediately bringing about Islamic jurisprudence had other ramifications: soon, Islamic punishments for various crimes and misdeeds were enforced under the Hudood Ordinance. Punishable offences included murder, theft, adultery and levelling false charges.

When these laws went into practice, they evoked a serious reaction from human rights organisations. For instance, drinking in Pakistan Penal Code was not categorised as a serious crime; it carried a sentence of six months imprisonment or a fine of Rs 5,000 or both.

But under the Prohibition Order, promulgated by Gen Zia, the punishment became 80 lashes for any Muslim violators.

Likewise, extramarital sex was also made punishable through the Zina Ordinance; if unmarried, the couple would be lashed 100 times each. For married persons, the punishment was stoning to death. After the promulgation of the Hudood Ordinance, the majority of victims were women, which prompted women rights groups to raise their voice.

But perhaps the greatest debate was sparked by Blasphemy Laws. Brought to practice in 1980 by making seven amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code, the new law said that any disregard shown to the Prophet (PBUH) or his family (ahl-i-bait) would be liable to punishment. Blasphemy against the Prophet (PBUH) was punishable by death or a life term and fine. Showing disrespect to the Holy Companions was also made punishable by imprisonment of upto three years.

Changes were made to the following clauses: 298-A, use of derogatory remarks for holy personalities (three years, fine or both); 298-B, misuse of epithets descriptions by Ahmadis calling himself a Muslim (three years imprisonment and fine); 298-C, outraging religious feelings of Muslims, or posing as a Muslim (three years imprisonment and fine); 295, injuring or defiling places of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class (up to two years or fine or both); 295-A, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (up to 10 years in jail or fine or both); 295-B, defiling, etc. of Holy Quran (jail for life); 295-C, use of derogatory remarks etc against the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), also punishable by death and fine.

When these laws were being promulgated, human rights organisations, as well as other liberal and progressive groups raised apprehensions that these could be misused to frame the innocent. Since then, more than 200 cases of blasphemy have been registered in Pakistan.

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1164655/introducing-islamic-laws

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