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ISLAM

ISLAM While Pakistan was founded on the basis of the notion that the Muslim community of British India was a separate nation, distinct from the majority Hindu population, it was not meant to become an Islamic state Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father, was a secular Muslim who wished to create a modern and democratic state for British India’s Muslims Jinnah might have realized his dream had he lived longer-he died on 11 September 1948, less than 13 months after Pakistan’s birth-and had ethnic cleansing not occurred following the British decision to partition their South Asian domain into a majority Hindu India and a majority Muslim Pakistan At least the push toward Islamization would not have manifested as strongly as it did Within a few months of the decision, announced on 3 June 1947, some 14 million people left their homes, with 8 million Muslims leaving India for Pakistan and 6 million Hindus and Sikhs moving in the other direction By the time the new leadership of Pakistan began the process of constitution-making, the proportion of Muslims in its population had increased by 20 percentage points, from 75 percent to 95 percent With this increase came the increasing influence of such Islamic parties as Jamaat-e-IslamiImmediately after Pakistan’s birth, the Jamaat went to work to introduce Islam into the new country’s society, polity, and economy These attempts were initially resisted by the mainstream political parties, in particular the Pakistan Muslim League The Jamaat’s campaign to have the Ahmadiya community declared a non-Muslim minority led to the limited Martial Law of 1953, while its efforts to introduce the Islamic sharia as the law of the land was equally unsuccessful



The Constitution of 1956 made a gesture to the demand of introducing Islamic precepts into the political system by incorporating a preamble to the main document The “directive principles” incorporated in the preamble were not enforceable in the law courts but were to serve as a guide to the formulation of state policies Also, the country was to be called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the head of the state, the president with no executive authority, had to be a Muslim The Constitution of 1962 retained most of the Islamic provisions of the 1956 document While it created a presidential system, the provision that only a Muslim could hold that position remained That notwithstanding, the administration of Muhammad Ayub Khan made no attempt to further Islamize the society or to bring religion into politics or the economy His one concession was to call the new capital he had built for the country Islamabad, the city of Islam Muhammad Ayub Khan was a modern and a secular person and did not encourage any aspect of IslamizationIt was under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ayub Khan’s successor, that Islam first gained a strong foothold in the Pakistani society This was surprising since Bhutto, even more than Muhammad Ayub Khan, had a strong secular outlook and was thoroughly modern and Westernized in the way he lived and behaved Nonetheless, two of his acts were to profoundly affect the pace of Islamization; the first of these was unwitting, but the second was a deliberate political move

In 1975, Bhutto chose a little known three-star army general, Zia ul-Haq, to become the chief of army staff He turned to Haq knowing full well that the general did not have a strong base of support in the army Deeply religious, Lieutenant General Zia did not fit well into the overtly Western and secular atmosphere that prevailed in the army, in particular in the messes and clubs in which the members of the corps of officers spent most of their non-work time Once installed as the head of the army, General Zia began the process of bringing religion into the serviceBhutto’s second move was taken in 1976 when, to take the sting out of the growing opposition move against him, he agreed to a number of demands that religious groups had made over time These included the designation of the Ahmadiya community as non-Muslim; prohibition of alcohol and gambling; and the designation of Friday, the Muslim Sabbath, as the weekly holiday These steps did not placate the Islamic groups Bhutto was ultimately overthrown by the military, under the command of General Zia ul-HaqBringing Islam into the economic and political systems and strengthening its hold on the society became important policy planks for the Zia government General Zia also sought to legitimize his rule by his commitment to Islamize the country In this effort he received support from two external sources

The United States helped Pakistan to develop or set up madrassas, which could train Islamic zealots to battle the Soviet troops that had moved into Afghanistan in 1979 and stayed on in the country for a decade The madrassas received financial support and religious indoctrination from Saudi Arabia The Saudis were anxious to export the Wahabi interpretation of Islam to other Muslim countries, and Pakistan, being the second largest Muslim country in the world after Indonesia, was an attractive place to begin this workSetting up and supporting madrassas was one of the many ways that General Zia ul-Haq brought Islam into the country He also changed the legal system in various ways A Sharia bench was set up as a part of the Supreme Court to determine whether the laws passed by the national and provincial assemblies conformed to the injunctions of Islam A new set of laws were enacted which seriously eroded the status of women in society Zia also enacted the blasphemy law that made denigration of Islam a criminal offense Some of these acts were punishable by deathThe United States response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on its territory, and the American retaliatory attack on Afghanistan, followed by the invasion of Iraq, strengthened the Islamic parties in Pakistan and contributed to the unexpectedly strong performance of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the elections of 2002 The MMA became the leading opposition party in the National Assembly and was able to form the provincial government in the Northwest Frontier Province and become a coalition partner in the government that took office in Balochistan

These two provinces bordered with Afghanistan, thus complicating Pakistan’s effort against terrorism inspired by Islamic extremistsThe advent of the era of President Pervez Musharraf, after the general assumed power in October 1999, ultimately led to the first strong government challenge to the Islamic groups in the country Initially, the military government sought to use the Islamic groups to counter the power of the mainstream parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), that General Musharraf opposed Later, once the Pakistani president had agreed with the Americans to end support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the religious groups turned against him with some vehemence that included three assassination attempts In return, the general declared war on Islamic extremists and set out to advocate the adoption of a strategy that he labeled “enlightened moderation” He also began to regulate the madrassas by requiring them to register with the government and to teach modern subjects along with religious instruction. Furthermore, he declared that his administration would review the laws on the country’s books that had infringed on the basic human rights of some segments of society, in particular those of women. His political reforms included reserving a large number of seats for women in the national and provincial assemblies. When, in 2005, the legislature of the Northwest Frontier Province passed the Hisab Act, aimed at creating a mechanism to force the people of the province to follow “Islamic ways,” he introduced a motion in the Supreme Court which declared the act unconstitutional. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the government of the day had decided to check the growing influence of the Islamic groups and block the march toward Islamization.

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