Islamization of Pakistan and its impact on Christian citizens

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Islamization of Pakistan and its impact on Christian citizens

Post  Jesusismylord on Tue 03 Nov 2009, 5:54 pm

Islamization of Pakistan and its impact on Christian citizens

By Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan

Special to ASSIST News Service

The late military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, embarked upon a “mission” to Islamize Pakistan apparently to prolong his dictatorial rule. The campaign to enforce Shariah began in 1977 with the Pakistan National Alliance and their slogan Nizam-e-Mustafa (Order of the Prophet Muhammad or freely translated as Islamic System), which was taken up by Zia’s military government later the same year. Zia made the Islamization of laws a primary objective.

Shariat benches and the Federal Shariat Court

In 1979 Zia created Shariat benches within the superior courts, and soon followed this by and amendment to the constitution to establish this reform. According to Chapter 3-A inserted into the 1973 constitution, Shariat benches were to be created within the High Courts when required to “decide the question whether or not any law or provision of the law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam as laid down in Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet” and this was to be done “notwithstanding anything contained in the constitution”.

This provision was strengthened by Zia in 1980 by the creation of a Federal Shariah Court. The Shariah Court had jurisdiction “notwithstanding anything in the constitution” to “examine and decide the question where or not any law or provision of the law is repugnant to the injunctions o Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet. The amendments to the Shariah court were made in 1982, 1984 and 1985 which considerably strengthened its power.

A dubious referendum was conducted on December 19, 1984 to impart some validity for Zia’s Islamization of the state and the legal system. The referendum asked only one question:

“Do you endorse the process initiated by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan, for bringing the laws of Pakistan into conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) and for the preservation of the Islamic ideology of Pakistan, the continuation and consolidation of that process, and for a smooth and orderly transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people”. The question did not leave any room for a negative answer to the referendum as that would immediately be construed as disrespect for Quran, Prophet Muhammad and Islam.

Hudood Ordinances and the Law of Evidence

In 1979 a number of Hudood Ordinances were put into effect, enforcing hadd (limit) penalties for the offences of drinking intoxicants (including drugs), theft, adultery and false accusation of adultery. The ordinance was most criticized for making it exceptionally difficult and dangerous to prove an allegation of rape. A woman alleging rape was required to provide four adult male witnesses of good standing of “the act of penetration”. In practice this is virtually impossible as no man of good standing would stand there and watch the violent act

Revision of ordinance

In 2006, then President Pervez Musharraf again proposed reform of the Ordinance. On November 15 2006, the Women's Protection Bill was passed in the National Assembly, allowing rape to be prosecutable under civil law. The bill was ratified by the Senate on 23 November 2006, and became law after President Musharraf signed it on 1 December 2006.

The reforms have come under considerable opposition from Islamist groups in Pakistan, who insist that law should stay in Sharia form but amended. Some Islamists have fiercely criticized the laws. Other legal experts have claimed that the original law was not so unbalanced as its opponents claim or that the reforms will be impossible to enforce.

Since the administration of justice under Islamic law system depends heavily on the number of qualified witnesses who gave evidence in court therefore Zia promulgated the Qanoon-e-Shahadat (Law of Evidence) which replaced a previous Law of Evidence dating from 1872. The Law of Evidence said: “Provided further that the Court shall determine the competence of a witness in accordance with the qualifications prescribed by the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah for a witness, and, where such witness is not forthcoming, the court may take the evidence of a witness who may be available.

According to this law non-Muslims can be defined as half witnesses in comparison with Muslims, making the evidence of a non-Muslim woman worth only a quarter of the evidence of a Muslim man.

Qisas and Diyat Ordinance

In 1990 the Shariah law of retaliation by causing similar hurt (Qisas) and compensation (diyat) for murder and intentional bodily harm had been introduce by means of a presidential order. Christians were alarmed by the implication that following the pattern of the Shariah they would be considered worth to be only half of the diyat of Muslims. The Ordinance was not considered by parliament and therefore lapsed after four months. In April 1977 an amended version was passed by Parliament, which had no discriminatory references to women or non-Muslims.

Blasphemy Laws

Blasphemy is dealt with under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code. The original law, based on the British Indian Law’s Indian Penal Code of 1860 and amended by the insertion of Section 295-A in 1927, simply stated that defiling any place of worship or deliberately insulting the religious beliefs of any group was to be punished with up to two years’ imprisonment.

295. “Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class: “ Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with knowledge that any class of person is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion , shall be punished with imprisonment to either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.

295-A Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs: “Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written m or by visible representations insults the religion, or religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or both.

This was far more liberal than the English blasphemy laws which protects only a single Christian denomination -- The Church of England -- and has no requirement for criminal intent.

Also relevant is Section 298 of the Penal Code.

298. Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings; “Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any words or makes any sound in the hearing of that person or makes an y gestures in the sight of that person or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

An amendment was added in 1980.

298-A. Use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of holy personages: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of any wife (Ummul Mumineen), or members of the family (Ahle-bait), of the Holy Prophet (Peace be Upon Him), or any of the righteous Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) or companions (Sahaba) of the Holy Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a terms which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both.

In 1982, under Zia, an amendment was added which made wilfully defiling or damaging a copy of the Quran an offence, punishable with mandatory life imprisonment (Section 295-B).

295-B Defiling of Holy Quran: “Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.”

In 1986, an amendment added the crime of insulting the Prophet Muhammad in the form of Section 295-C

295-C Use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine”

In 1991, Federal Shariah Court ruled mandatory death sentence for committing blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

In 1993 a bill targeting minority Shias was introduced which provided for severe penalties for those guilty of defiling the names of Prophet Muhammad’s family and Companions. The bill was rejected by the National Assembly in July 1994.

Eighth and Ninth Amendments

To accomplish the twin purposes of furthering the Islamization and ratifying his several past actions, Mr. Haq introduced 8th Amendment. This amendment provided a constitutional basis for Separate Electorates system and incorporated Objective Resolution as the integral part of the constitution. The clause stating that “ Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance e with the teaching and requirements of Islam as set out in holy Quran and Sunnah became legally obligatory. The conservative religious groups considered it inadequate as it did not extend the powers of the Federal Shairah Court to cover fiscal laws, Muslim personal laws and the judicial system, they voted for it only on condition that the government would introduce legislation to deal with this issue at later date.

In a bid to appease religious conservatives the government proposed Ninth Amendment to the constitution which covered the areas religious groups had considered lacking in Eighth amendment. The Ninth Amendment bill declared that “the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah shall be the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the parliament and provincial assemblies and for policy making by the government” Before Ninth amendment could finish its passage through parliament assemblies were dissolved by Zia government on May 29, 1988.

Enforcement of Sharia Act 1991

The enforcement of Shariah bill was passed by the National Assembly on 16 May 1991 and by the Senate on 28 May 1991.

Fifteenth Amendment Bill

On August 28, 1998 then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif introduced to the National Assembly a bill to amend the constitution so as to make the Quran and Sunnah “constitutionally and legally supreme”. The fifteenth amendment bill was greeted with widespread condemnation from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party to the Islamic political parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam and even from some members of Nawaz Sharif’s own Muslim league. Vociferous protests were made by many Christian organizations including the Christian Liberation Front, Pakistan Christian National Party, the Pakistan Christian Action Forum and the Christian Lawyers Association. The bill proposed to make two changes to Pakistan constitution. Firstly, there was an introduction of a new article 2B section 1 of this stated that “The Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) shall be the supreme law of Pakistan”.

Secondly, there were proposed amendments to Article 239 which set out new procedures for passing legislation with the purpose of removing any impediments in enforcing Shariah and implementing the injunctions o Islam. These new procedures reduced the majority required for constitutional changes and reduced the power of the upper house, giving the government—effectively the prime Minister--- vastly increased powers to amend the constitution and make laws. A revised version of the bill was presented to the National Assembly on October 9, 1998 and passed by 151 votes to 16. With its overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, it was not a problem for the government to have the amendment passed there but it was another matter in the Senate where the ruling party lacked the requisite majority.

The Senate resolved not to accord to the bill when presented for vote. The prime minister (Nawaz Sharif) responded by going about castigating that body, urging people to force the hands of the senators, and calling on mullahs to run all critics of the bill to earth. Nawaz Sharif called at public forums that it was the duty of the public to force the erring members of the Senate to pass the so-called Shariat Bill. He argued that the Senate, an indirectly elected house, had no justification for opposing the Shariat bill and that the passage of the bill by the National Assembly, elected directly, reflected the national aspirations.

Islamization of Education

The non-Muslim students had to study Islamic studies from grade 1 to grade 8 and only in grade 9 they had the option of studying Civics or Ethics in grade 9. It has recently changed though and non-Muslim students now have the option of studying Ethics from grade 1 instead of Islamic studies. Critics demand that the Ethic text books be written by non-Muslim scholars. The Islamic chauvinism has infiltrated other subjects also--- even secular subjects such as Geography and History. Subjects such as History are obviously subject to interpretation, but if the interpretation is heavily biased in favour of Islam it does not lead us to avowed objective of all education and research--- arriving at the truth. For example if in Geography the question is asked, “Who lives in Pakistan”? And the answer expected and taught is “Muslims” is not a valid answer. Similarly to the question “Who founded Pakistan”, the answer taught is again “Muslims”—though obviously Christians and Hindus had a definite part to play in the freedom struggle against the colonial regime in India. “Whom does Pakistan belong to”, the answer taught is “Muslims”. This is chilling for non-Muslim Pakistanis. It is almost as if they are rejected as citizens of Pakistan. If Pakistan belongs to Muslims what rights can non-Muslims have? If this is what Pakistani children learn at schools how can there be religious harmony in the nation?

Violence against Christians

A large majority of Pakistani Muslims perceive Christians as the toadies and stool-pigeons of the Christian West. The Christians of Pakistan and their institutions bear the brunt of Muslim anger if an incident perceived as unjust by Muslims happens in the Christian West. Churches were attacked after Jylland Posten, a Danish Newspaper printed caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Christians also suffered violence following US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. As a military crackdown against militants is underway in South Waziristan area of Pakistan there has been an an upsurge in terrorism-related violence across the country, sparking fears among Christians that the tide of violence can turn towards them.

Islamization of Pakistan and its impact on Christian citizens
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