- Politics and Social Issues
Pakistan, the Hudood Ordinance and women as Second Class Citizens
Turmoil in Pakistan
Basis of Pakistan
Pakistan is a theocratic state founded on the basis that Muslims of the sub-continent is a different ‘nation’ and thus deserve a separate homeland. This plea was accepted by the British and the state of Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947. The first Governor General of Pakistan was Mohammed Ali Jinnah a man who claimed to be secular, yet espoused the cause of a separate Muslim state.
Clamor for the Sharia by Religious Fanatics
The raisen d’être of Pakistan is a Muslim state and from the beginning, there was a growing clamor for implementation of the Sharia, which was resisted by the educated elite and intellectuals. initially, Pakistan inherited all the laws framed by the British but a growing clamor by the religious ulema, who were in a minority soured the atmosphere.
Zulfikar Bhutto and His Constitution
The first years after the creation of Pakistan the laws enacted by the British were adopted by Pakistan. The advent of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 was a watershed in Pakistan politics. Bhutto for all his qualities was a poor leader and it was no surprise that he was overthrown in a military coup in 1977 by General Zia-ul-Haq. But before that, he had framed a constitution which had elements of equality for all.
Rise of General Zia
General Zia had a very little mass following and wished to get rid of Bhutto who had some standing among the masses. He subsequently got Bhutto hanged on a charge of conspiracy to murder a political opponent. But despite the exit of Bhutto General Zia-ul-Haq felt insecure. He, however, hit on a novel idea to win the support of the hard-line Islamic mullahs and groups by enacting an ordinance known as the Hudood ordinance.
Zia's Game Plan: Passing the Hudood Ordinance
This ordinance passed certain laws with regard to women and took away rape and allied crimes outside the purview of the Pakistan Penal code and replaced them with the Sharia. This pleased the hard-line Muslim elements and Zia got a fresh lease on life.
Hudood and Women
The passage of the Hudood ordinance was an anti-woman law. It made the application of the Sharia mandatory in the case of rape. It also brought to the fore the Islamic view of jurisprudence which specifies that the evidence of a woman is half of a man. Thus to corroborate an act a single woman is not enough but must be evidenced by 2 women. The repercussions of this were ominous as two women need to testify to corroborate an event like a rape. Since a rape is usually done in secret the evidence of a woman that she had been raped by a man could not stand in a Sharia court.
Applicability of Sharia on Rape
Another draconian interpretation that was accepted based on the Sharia is that for any crime (including rape) the requirement of 4 witnesses is mandatory. The result of this is that it is impossible to secure a conviction of a rapist for the simple reason
a) Woman’s evidence that she is raped is not admissible.
b) As rape is generally carried out in secrecy, the requirement of 4 witnesses as per the Shariat to corroborate the crime is impossible.
Rights of Women
In real terms, a rapist could not be convicted. There was a negative fall out of this ordinance. In case a woman could not prove a rape charge she was open to being charged with adultery (Zinna) as per the Sharia as she had consummated sex outside marriage. The punishment for Zinna in the Sharia is death by stoning.
The Hudood ordinance thus took away the rights of women and the world sat and watched. In Pakistan, many NGO’s led by human rights activist Asma Jahangir has campaigned against this law, but the law stands.
The Hudood ordinance has had its effect and many Pakistani women are in jail for claiming to be raped as they cannot prove rape as per the tenets of the Sharia. Most have been charged with Zinna. General Haq has gone, assassinated in an air crash but this nefarious law is not repealed.In Pakistan, there is little discussion about this ordinance and nobody dare talk about it as it will clash with the hard-line religious lobby. This is indeed sad and one wonders where Pakistan is heading.