Already a Shariah State ? | The News, Pakistan

February 2014

Leave alone the abject, shameful decision to talk with terrorists, the composition of the two negotiating teams and the TTP's declared agenda require reflection.

First, the composition: there is no woman member. As the exclusion in the TTP team is predictable, why does the Government team not include even a symbolic representative of 48 per cent of the country's population (as per the 1998 census)? The presence of a woman would have actually been more than symbolic. Women have suffered even more than men due to the atrocities perpetrated by terrorists who use the sacred name of Islam as a cloak for their barbarity and their nefarious real aims? As widows, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, relations of soldiers, police and male citizens who were killed or seriously injured, women, in a sense, experience a fate worse than death. Thousands deal with deep trauma and torment every day as they face an uncertain, insecure future in a historically male-dominated society.

As women are also likely to be the major victims of any concessions to the TTP's version of Shariah, a woman's presence in the official negotiating team would have ensured that the TTP recognized at the outset, that the human rights of women are non-negotiable.

Second, the agenda: TTP spokesmen frequently advocate the rule of Shariah. But they need to be reminded at the start that Pakistan is already a virtual Shariah State.

As free unwanted advice to the official team, herewith are elements of the Shariah State of Pakistan which already exist.

To begin with, the Objectives Resolution of 1948 is a substantive part and the Preamble to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Then, Article 2 of the Constitution states: "Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan". Article 31 titled "Islamic way of life" with two sub-clauses spells out in some detail, including the promotion of the Arabic language, on steps to fulfil its provisions. Article 41, sub-clause 2 specifies that only a Muslim is eligible to be the President. Article 91, sub-clause 3 ensures that only a Muslim member of the National Assembly can be elected Prime Minister.

Article 203A in Chapter 3A refers to the status of the Federal Shariat Court and begins with the stricture that: "The provisions of this Chapter shall have effect notwithstanding any thing contained in the Constitution". Subsequently, Article 203B through Article 203J spell out in detail the role of the Federal Shariat Court.

In Part IX, "Islamic Provisions", Articles 227 through 231 provide for all laws to be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. They then go on to describe the composition and functions of the Islamic Ideology Council.

There are the Blasphemy law, the Hudood Ordinance and other provisions that give legal status to questionable, even inhumane and distorted interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah.

To reinforce these legal provisions, segments of the State and society, directly or covertly facilitate the establishment, survival, expansion, funding and activities of religion-based organizations, some of which use verbal or physical violence to project their views. They also permit unregulated construction of mosques manned by prayer-leaders with no semblance of modern education; the easy availability of hate-based sectarian literature; the promotion of contrived religious piety through media.

In banking, investment, insurance (takaful), enterprises that claim to be "Shariah-compliant" are making steady progress. So credible have claims by even criminal elements misusing Islamic references become, that only recently a huge scam involving billions of rupees collected from innocent citizens by persons with religious titles is currently under investigation.

Pervasive societal observance of Ramazan, Muharram, the two Eids, Eid Milad-un-Nabi, Shab-e-Qadr, Shab-e-Barat, mandatory payments of Zakat, performance by millions each year of Haj and Umrah, journeys by many to other holy places across the country and overseas Muslim countries - all of these reflect an abundant, respectful practice of rituals, both as enjoined rituals, and those adopted by sheer practice over centuries.

Tragically, continuation of un-Islamic practices brazenly misusing Islam as a pretext to enforce them continue on an alarming scale even in 2014. These include the bizarre, sacrilegious act by some men of "marrying women to the Holy Quran" in order to keep property within the family; falsely claiming "dishonour of a Muslim family" to commit honour killings called "Karokari" ; the use of jirgas and panchayats to mete out brutal punishments to women in the name of Islam ; the enforced isolation, concealment of women within burqas and inside households ("chaar dewari") ; the arbitrary limits to female education to prevent girls going beyond primary school to secondary level, college and university. Versions, good and bad, of a Shariah-based society are already visible facets of contemporary Pakistan.

So what more do the TTP and their ilk want? Obviously, they wish to abolish or deform any institution or manifestation which represents gender equity, scientific rationality and global values of humanism because these expose their ignorant primitivism.

The sheer existence and activism of parts of our State and society that are thoroughly Muslim without being narrow-minded, repressive and violent are a miracle. May the miracle survive and transcend the talks, even if it is all male-talk !

As published on the op-ed page of The News, Pakistan on 10th February 2014