The state and the CII

Published: April 7, 2014
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The writer has a master’s degree in conflict-resolution from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and blogs at http://coffeeshopdiplomat.wordpress.co

The writer has a master’s degree in conflict-resolution from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California and blogs at http://coffeeshopdiplomat.wordpress.co

Within a decade of the nation’s inception, the 1956 Constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic. It also deemed Islam the official religion of the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the patron of the 1973 Constitution, took it a step further and declared Islam the state religion. An amendment was also added to the Constitution a year later which proclaimed Ahmadis non-Muslims. Bhutto’s government went on to make Islamiat compulsory in schools and banned alcohol in Pakistan. Ultimately, his government’s policies led to the empowerment of Islamist groups. Add in Ziaul Haq’s inclusion of the Objectives Resolution to the Constitution and Pakistan’s destiny was on a treacherous path. Zia managed to indoctrinate religion into the society, media, armed forces and universities. Politicians have relied on religion since that point to garner votes which encourages extremism to seep even deeper into the societal fabric of Pakistan.

The 1973 Constitution, a consensus document, is full of contradictions. For instance, Article 25 states that all citizens are equal under the law, whereas Article 2 declares Islam the state religion. The establishment of one religion as the state religion to the exclusion of others diminishes equality of citizens of other faith. How can Pakistan be a democracy if all citizens are not treated equally? Case in point, a non-Muslim citizen cannot become the head of the state and this is in direct violation of Article 25.

This brings us to present day Pakistan, where debate on the Council of Islamic Ideology’s (CII) rulings has dominated discourses for the past few days. Here is a list of the CII’s accomplishments thus far: DNA testing not permitted as primary evidence in case of rape — instead, a woman has to produce four men who observed the crime — and the Women’s Protection Act of 2006, which was rejected by the council. It has also opposed the Domestic Violence Bill.

The actions of the CII should not come as a surprise to anyone, but should only strengthen the case for separating state from religion, as is the case in the developed world. Women and minorities must be acknowledged as full-fledged human beings and be given back the right to determine their own fate. Abolishing the council is not the ultimate solution; only the first step. If there is a conscious decision by the populace to adopt a “state religion”, then so be it. The people would then have no choice but to live by whatever edicts are given out by the council.

However, if this were near reality, the provincial and federal legislatures would be bursting with religious zealots borne off religious parties. When religious parties usually bag no more than two per cent of the seats, the country has not even begun to approach that scenario. There remains no justification as to why the council should be given a licence to dictate how the nation’s Constitution should be structured. Never has there been a better time than now to abolish the CII. Overcoming years of Islamisation, coupled with rampant illiteracy, will be a historic undertaking and the process needs to begin today if Pakistan wants to recover from the consequences of dogma.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • x
    Apr 7, 2014 - 2:26AM

    We need a kemal ataturk.

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  • sabi
    Apr 7, 2014 - 3:29AM

    This constitution is a big hole of fire filled with fuel of hatred with fascists sitting around it making sure fire doesn’t extinguish.Truth is officially banned but at the cost of life.
    Excellent article.

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  • RM
    Apr 7, 2014 - 7:56AM

    How can Pakistan be a democracy if all citizens are not treated equally? Uhh

    Deomcracy, tyranny of majority, at its roots always has preferential treatment. Come on…. look around in US. Did u read tocqueville? Stability comes with equality or inequality? As regard Islam, i agree we have some issues. There is nothing wrong with it BUT religion can easily be manipulated, and thats why shall be separated from functions of state.

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  • Zubair Khan
    Apr 7, 2014 - 1:04PM

    Solution lies in separation of religion from state. Can any one do it? If not then forget any improvement.

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  • Zulfiqar Haider
    Apr 7, 2014 - 4:15PM

    Well the only institution capable of removing religion from state is the Army, but then again, it has its own issues. The concept of Jihad against India is a big big inspiration for the army, so it might not be a viable idea, maybe for another couple of years or even decades. But it would happen ultimately like it happened in Europe, but we don’t know for sure, when? Maybe not in our lifetimes.

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  • It Is (still) Economy Stupid
    Apr 7, 2014 - 8:01PM

    It seems that Pakistan’s interpretation of Islam and democracy are mutually exclusive. Bhutto and Zia changed the liberal interpretation of Islam in to a narrow and in your face religion and that is not what the intent of the forefathers of Islam or nation. In such case Pakistan should look up to democratically progressive states who are developed nations with Muslim majority. Such a model will require wholesale changes in the constitution and state of mind. The other million dollar question is that if your model is very close to that of India than why did you separate from India? Two nations theory and Progressive democratic Pakistan are mutually exclusive.

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  • Rex Minor
    Apr 7, 2014 - 10:23PM

    May I remand the madam that it was Hitler and Mussolini, who were the first to introduce secular Governments in Europe by entering into a concord with the Vatican, the powerful catholic church separating the powers of the church from those of the administration. This concord is still valid and so is the power of the Vatican on its followers. CII on the other hand has neither the legal nor any spirtual power over the muslim citizens of Pakistan. Therefore, your suggestion of abolishing the institution is not valid since as you indicated that the religious political parties do not command more than 2 % of the populace votes.
    This is not to say that reforms are not needed in Pakistan so that the people and the religious leaders become more aware of the religion of Islam separating it from the ancient traditions and peoples cultures. Keeping a beard or having more than one wife has no relevance in the religion of Islam.
    Islam is the State religion, does not mean that it has a caliph, its democracy provides equal rights for all its citizens and though the law prevents a non muslim becoming a President, it does not insist that the President must be born in the country as is the case in the USA.

    Rex Minor

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  • Parvez
    Apr 7, 2014 - 10:36PM

    There has been much written on the subject and this is an excellent addition.
    Bodies such has the CII are regressive in their views and certainly do not represent the true spirit of Islam, which has progressive principles that evolve with the times. If seen carefully the CII appears to be a body that has political undertones and its actions can be termed as simply mischief making…….this could be deliberate or even unintentional ( and that is even worse ).

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  • Apr 8, 2014 - 10:27AM

    @Rex Minor:
    Pure unadulterated hogwash. The Vatican did not
    enter in any deals with Hitler or Mussolini. No such
    thing happened. Neutral is the word. Just like another
    country that survived the European turmoil, Switzerland.
    The size of Vatican,..109 acres. or 44 hectares, is in
    the heart of Rome. The dictators simply left it alone.
    Not worth the trouble to antagonize South America.
    Another neutral area. Specially Argentina.

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  • Rex Minor
    Apr 8, 2014 - 3:31PM

    @Hunza wala:

    No one can get you out of ignorance Sir. Perhaps the author of the article the waziri intellect can. she has the talent and the education for research.

    Rex Minor

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  • Ayaz Hyder
    Apr 9, 2014 - 4:34AM

    Well articulated and to the point . Yes it high time to de-islamise the state and society thereafter.

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  • observer
    Apr 9, 2014 - 1:59PM

    When religion is mixed with politics, there is no difference between the two. Therefore what Pakistan has religion-political parties or political-religious parties. Things will only get worse much much worse, but who cares. The point is not that things get worse, the point is that things get worse on purpose, so the above religion-political parties can claim to be saviors of the faith. We are a most amazing nation.

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  • Rex Minor
    Apr 9, 2014 - 10:00PM

    I would still expect that the author will respond to my comments who is suggesting the abolishment of CII, whose role is of advisory nature? I should have thought that the author will recommend the separation of traditions from the religion of Islam.

    Rex Minor

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