Islam as the Religion of the State

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto becomes
President of Pakistan, 1971

Pakistan’s most recent constitution was promulgated in 1973 by the first democratically elected Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971-1977). The constitution retained the Islamic provisions of its predecessors. But it went a step further, declaring Pakistan an Islamic Republic (Article 1) where both the president and prime minister were required to be Muslims and Islam was the state religion (Article 2). The constitution called for the setting up of a Council of Islamic Ideology, comprising religious scholars and experts, to enforce the repugnancy clause (Article 227 and Article 228). The Council also had the power to “compile in a suitable form, for the guidance of the Parliament and the Provincial Assemblies, such Injunctions of Islam as can be given legislative effect.” The teaching of the Quran and Islamic Studies was also made a compulsory subject for all Muslims. Article 31 (a) and (b) of the 1973 Constitution required the state: “to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory” and “to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language.”

While the constitution guaranteed the individual’s freedom to “profess, practice and propagate” his or her religion (Article 20), the Second Amendment Act (1974) declared Ahmadis (a minority Muslim sect)1 non-Muslims by making faith in the “absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad” as a condition for being Muslim “for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”

Next: Islamizing the Constitution

  • 1. The Ahmadis are  a Sunni minority sect who believe in the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed, regarded by some sections of the community as a prophet of the twentieth century.