Islamizing the Constitution

After overthrowing Bhutto in a coup, the military, under General Zia ul Haq, suspended the 1973 constitution and embarked on an unprecedented Islamization project. Between 1977 and 1985, Zia issued a series of decrees to amend the constitution, including the setting up of Sharia Benches consisting of “three Muslim judges” to assist the judiciary in bringing all laws in conformity with the principles of Islam. He also instituted Islamic criminal laws (the Hudood Ordinances), prescribing strict and discriminatory punishments for sex outside marriage, rape and bearing false witness. Jurisdiction over these statutes was entrusted to a newly created separate Federal Shariat Court (FSC) which had the power to “on the petition of a citizen of Pakistan or the Federal Government or a Provincial Government, examine and decide the question whether or not any law or provision of law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah” (Chapter 3 A).


General Zia ul Haq
(Source: Al Jazeera)

The Constitution Amendment Order (5) of 1981 inserted a new Article 203-CC in the Constitution whereby a Panel of Ulema and Ulema members, “well versed in Islamic law” would be constituted by the President to assist the court in its jurisdiction. In 1985, the Second Amendment through which the Ahmadis had been declared non-Muslims was further amended to explicitly state “‘non-Muslim’ means a person who is not a Muslim and include a person belonging to the Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Parsi community, a person of the Qadiani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmadis’ or by any other name), or a Bahai, and a person belonging to any of the Scheduled Casts” (Article 260).

In 1985, Zia revived the 1973 constitution through the Eight Amendment Act to validate all his “Orders, Ordinances. Martial Law Regulations and Martial Law Orders” and barred their review in a court of law (Article 270-A). As a result, the Hudood Ordinances also took on the force of law. Through Article 2(A) of the same amendment, the Objectives Resolution was made a substantive part of the constitution. Additionally, the parliament was renamed the Majlis-e-Shoora and certain requirements were put in place for its membership. Under Article 61 a member of parliament had to possess “good character,” not be known as one who “commonly...violates Islamic Injunctions” and have “adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins.”

Next: Islam and the Constitution Since Zia