Islam and the Legal System

The legal system in Pakistan is based on English common law and Islamic law. Between 1947 and 1978, Islamic law was largely restricted to the sphere of personal status issues, such as marriage, inheritance and divorce.  The Islamization of the legal system began in earnest under General Zia ul Haq (1977-1988). Through a series of presidential decrees, Zia introduced far reaching changes in Pakistan’s criminal justice system, regulated by the Pakistan Penal Code of 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (1898). He also created a parallel court system, consisting of Shariat courts, and amended the country’s anti-blasphemy laws. While most of the “Islamic” laws he instituted are still on the statute, and some were reinforced by conservative governments, Pakistan’s parliament has recently introduced legal changes aimed at improving the status of women in the private and public spheres.

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