Nawaz Sharif’s Shariat bill

Published: March 5, 2013
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The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

No Muslim, whether in name only or a practising one, would want to be publicly counted among those who do not wish to see Pakistan’s Constitution brought in full conformity with Shariah. Still, all the well-known religo-political parties (the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and all its factions, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan and all its factions) committed to rehashing our Constitution in accordance with Shariah could never win enough electoral seats in the elections they had contested in the past to achieve their objective. Even Nawaz Sharif, who won more than enough seats in his second term, could not succeed in getting his 15th constitutional amendment bill through, popularly known as the “Shariat bill”.

The amendment was introduced on August 28, 1998 and the bill was passed on October 9, 1998 by a two-third majority. This bill empowered the prime minister to enforce what he thought was right and to prohibit what he considered was wrong in Islam and Shariah, irrespective of what the Constitution or any judgment of the court said. The amendment also added a new article (2B) in the Constitution, which said that the federal government shall be under an obligation to take steps to enforce the Shariah, to establish Salat, to administer Zakat, to promote Amer bil ma’roof and Nahi anil munkar (to prescribe what is right and to forbid what is wrong), to eradicate corruption at all levels and to provide substantial socio-economic justice in accordance with the principles of Islam, as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. This bill was opposed by about 16 MNAs, including the JUI and five independents. The ruling party’s main coalition partner, the MQM, abstained from voting. The Senate, where the PML-N was in minority, resolved not to table the bill. Sharif was so angry at this “defiance” of the upper house that he publicly demanded that the senators be forced to pass the bill.

Earlier, the Senate, where the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (an alliance opposed to the PPP) was in majority, had passed another Shariah bill called “The Enforcement of Shariat” as a private members bill on May 13, 1990, during the first government of Benazir Bhutto. The bill was moved by Qazi Abdul Latif and Maulana Samiul Haq in the Senate. After its adoption by a two-third majority in the Senate, it was sent to the National Assembly (NA) for adoption. But by the time it could be taken up, the president had dissolved the NA and the bill lapsed.

Next, Sharif in his first term introduced the “Enforcement of Shariat Bill” in the two houses, which was adopted by simple majority. The Act sought interpretation of all laws in the light of Shariah and also sought setting up of commissions for Islamisation of educational and economic systems and the media, in addition to elimination of corruption, bribery, obscenity and ensuring an order based on Amr Bil Ma’roof and Nahi Anil Munkar.

To cut a long story short, Sharif, who is perceived by his supporters to hold complete political sway over Pakistan’s biggest province and who in the past had almost succeeded in introducing Shariah, would perhaps appear to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other jihadi outfits all yearning for a Shariah-compliant Constitution, as the ideal conduit to play the role of interlocutor — along with the JI and the JUI-F chiefs — in any peace talks with the army. And perhaps, more reassuring for these militant groups is the ambivalent position taken by the provincial government vis-à-vis the Punjab-based jihadi non-state actors during the last five years.

Here, it would not be out of place to quote from a recently published book, Punjabi Taliban, by Mujahid Hussain. The author claims that according to information gathered from intelligence sources, there are some 150,000 insurgents belonging to jihadi and fundamentalist organisations active in Punjab and that it is Punjab that provides the majority of the terrorists and suicide bombers to various organisations active in Pakistan’s tribal region, thus negating the existing hypothesis that insurgency in tribal areas is driven by indigenous groups. The book has one chapter each on eight divisions of Punjab and gives a detailed account of the structure of radical, as well as terrorist organisations, infighting among different factions and related activities.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • asad
    Mar 6, 2013 - 4:16AM

    What an absolute joke.

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  • Afrooz
    Mar 6, 2013 - 4:54AM

    Sentences too long and with confusing construction. I had to read the first sentence thrice to understand what the author was trying to say – “that the public oppose Shariat privately though they wont come out in the open with this”.

    Please consider writing in less flowery language.

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  • Peace
    Mar 6, 2013 - 4:55AM

    That’s ridiculous. A vast number of Pakistanis would not agree to live under any sort of Sharia. we want a secular democracy. Islam has been tried and it failed give true secular democracy a chance.

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  • Maxt
    Mar 6, 2013 - 5:45AM

    Shariah is a fifteen hundred year old system. The world is completely different now. Shariah does not really fit in today’s world. Legal systems have to evolve to keep up with the changing environment.

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  • Something Clever
    Mar 6, 2013 - 5:45AM

    @Peace:
    As much as I’d like to believe you to represent a majority, I can not imagine the words “Islam has been tried and it failed give true secular democracy a chance” coming out of most of the people who comment on here, let alone the majority.

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  • Falcon
    Mar 6, 2013 - 5:52AM

    Very informative article. Based on this, I really wonder who are the people who consider Imran Khan as Taliban Khan, when in reality IK has never expressed the desire or intent to Islamize the country. The only thing he talks about is Islamic welfare system. In that one too, welfare is the sole focus. If you want to validate this, take a look at PTI’s 7 policies that have been released so far, none of them is focused on further Islamization of the country, but more on improving governance and providing better social welfare.

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  • Muhammad
    Mar 6, 2013 - 5:56AM

    I don’t want to live in Zia’s Pakistan, where politicians perverse religious text and use it to justify their corruption!

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  • Rex Minor
    Mar 6, 2013 - 7:04AM

    The European constitutions reflect the values of Ibrahimic faith, Pakistan being an Islamic republic must reflect the Islamic values in its constituton. Shariha are the laws which the democraticaly elected majority propose and legislate to facilitate the stability and the administeration of the land. Not 7th century laws, but 21st century needs.

    The Govt. and the judiciary must not be under the control of the religious institutions, nor should the religious institution be cuner the control of the Govt. This is what we call secular system and in force since Hitler concord with the powerful church, each functioning independently.

    Unless the Pakistan public do not get familiarised with and learn the arabic language, they will continue to rely on clergy keep going in circles and act as skeptics over time..

    Rex Minor

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  • jugnoo
    Mar 6, 2013 - 7:30AM

    @Peace:
    In fact Secularism is the most religious system as every body is free to practice his/her faith without interfering with any one else. Its specially becomes very important if population is composed of heterogeneous faiths like in South Asia and helps keep harmony among people.

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  • leftist
    Mar 6, 2013 - 10:14AM

    @executive editor what is the purpose of your article… is this responsible journalism?… let me also make it clear that i have never supported Nawaz Sharif…

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  • Mar 6, 2013 - 12:01PM

    It is true that “that the public oppose Shariat privately though they wont come out in the open with this”
    But I always wonder that why all those who defend that a 1500 years old social system should be implemented to govern a state in to days world write their comments under pseudo names like Something Clever, leftist, Rex Minor etc. Why these people do not come openly. They realize the truth but keep saying what they have been conditioned to say.

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  • Mar 6, 2013 - 12:32PM

    Jinnah has himself said Pakistan’s Constitution will be based on Sharia. Why not implement Sharia in it fullest form, the form that is widely accepted in the entire world? Considering Sharia in most Islamic states is similar, the implementation is also figured out.

    PEW survey says Pakistanis want Sharia. Politicians say they want it. It is the liberals who distort Sharia and say they don’t want it.

    I am an Indian and I support the implementation of Sharia in all its glory. :) Haha.. That would complete the creation of Pakistan. Nothing would give me joy than to see Sharia over all of Pakistan. Jinnah too wanted Sharia-based system, he too will be smiling where ever he is..

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  • Mar 6, 2013 - 12:35PM

    @Peace:

    I agree with you, but with one sentence where you claim most Pakistanis would not want to live under Sharia. PEW Survey of 2 years ago says the opposite, more than 80% of the people support it.

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  • Qasim
    Mar 6, 2013 - 12:45PM

    It may appear finger-pointing but the sad fact is that most of the material used in the Karachi and Quetta carnage moved from tribal areas & KPK through Punjab without being detected; how absurd. It is fair to ask why the similar targets in Punjab were spared; there is no smoke without fire. If not a direct accessory, PML(N) cannot be absolved either.

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  • jugnoo
    Mar 7, 2013 - 3:46AM

    @BruteForce:
    These figures coincide perfectly with illitracy rate.

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  • someone
    Mar 8, 2013 - 5:32PM

    @BruteForce:
    It’s flattering to see you care so deeply about what’s going on in Pakistan and have taken it as a duty to be so well informed of the goings on. Thanks for your commitment to us and our newspapers :) Now hows about you show some of that concern and care for your motherland. Ciao.

    P.S. Jinnah is no more. It’s generally proper to refer to the dead in past tense.

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  • Hamza
    Mar 8, 2013 - 6:20PM

    The author claims that according to information gathered from intelligence sources, there are some 150,000 insurgents belonging to jihadi and fundamentalist organisations active in Punjab

    What Punjab Govt has done to bring these fundamentalists to law courts? I guess nothing.Recommend

  • Mar 9, 2013 - 2:41PM

    @someone:

    You have no other reply than to ask me to move out of this site, isn’t it, by masking it in the line of asking me to do something “for.[My].Motherland”(when you have no idea of my past history).

    My comment is historically correct- Jinnah has expressed his fondness of Sharia. Sharia is indeed desired by most Pakistanis, hence Democratic.

    But in your mind Jinnah is a great liberal and Sharia is distorted by almost all its implementations and you have a right implementation(You don’t really believe this, but say it anyway to soothe your ego). I just called your bluff.

    No wonder you are angry at my comment. It brought out the utter confusion in you.

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  • KAM
    May 1, 2013 - 2:45AM

    Commanding Good and forbade evil is what ALLAH commanded and that made ISLAM nation to be superior in front of ALLAH.

    Some followers go beyond the limits which is wrong because muslims who are not guided because ALLAH kept them in that state and ALLAH’s planning is beyond imagination and ALLAH is not cruel to His creatures.

    It is natural to feel wrong, when it is done by few people forcing ISLAM on to others they are entitled terrorists or extremist but when the whole government shall turn to Shariah, everyone will follow like now they follow current laws.

    Hopefully, Muslims will get their respect back soon enough when and only they will come back to true ISLAM. My Vote is for ISLAM !!!

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  • KAM
    May 1, 2013 - 3:01AM

    ISLAM supposes to be rightfully decedent of peace keeping force of the world but because nowadays muslims especially the ones dying to become westerns in replicating and considering their religious values as low or unworkable are lacking the trust in ALLAH or ISLAM has been hijacked by innovators and Muslims nowadays are unaware of their true rituals due to forsaking Quran’s message.

    ALLAH promised to make us superior if we become true believer.

    Let me give you an example, USA has emerged has the peace keeper of the world and all it does right or wrong, nations keeping their mouths shut along paying them from their resources to help them maintain peace in their countries. ISLAM does the very same and designed to be care taker of everyone else including disbelievers who intend not to fight. ISLAM resents forcing upon Non-muslims and allows them to live in peace with respect, wealth and their religious values under its jurisdiction but only if they pledged to stay under ISLAM in peace.

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