CII and social realities
COUNCIL of Islamic Ideology (CII) is a constitutional body which was created in 1961 to advise the government or an Assembly whether a proposed or existing law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam—but its recommendations are not binding. The Council has been issuing rulings for decades, but its recommendations have not been given much weight by the government or Parliament. However whenever it suited the Rulers, its recommendations were accepted to the extent of their desires.
For instance, in 1983 the CII ruled that the political parties were contrary to the spirit of Islam, and that presidential system was more suited to Pakistan than the parliamentary form, General Zia barred the political parties from contesting elections in 1985, but did not formally introduce the presidential system. But to perpetuate his rule, he held a fake referendum and kept himself in power as President. Political Parties are still retained as the bedrock of Pakistan’s political system despite CII’s clear injunctions against it.
Even in social and family matters, the CII showed no significant impact except that in 1974, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banned alcohol accepting its recommendations under fear of public agitation. Most other recommendations of CII on social and family matters were largely ignored. Significant among them is its ruling to lower marriageable age of male and female to 12 and 9 years, and declaring laws prohibiting child marriages as un-Islamic, which was not accepted. Its recommendations that the existing law requiring a husband to get ‘written approval’ from the first wife before his second marriage is un- Islamic was also not accepted. Similarly its other rulings on the efficacy of DNA tests, human cloning, and sex re-assignment surgery etc. have not been accepted by the government. It also declared family planning as un-Islamic, to which the state has paid scant attention.
The latest ruling of CII made in rebuttal to the Provincial Assembly’s ‘Women’s Protection Act’ passed in February 2016 has created quite a furor across the country because of its controversial and anti-Islamic provisions. Its ruling has been termed as ‘ridiculous’ by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and mocked by the national media. .It allows the ‘light beating’ of women by their husbands, and prohibits women from working in a mixed gender environment leaving little scope for women to come out of their house-holds. All this has been done in sheer violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution as well as Pakistan’s international obligations for human rights and women empowerment.
The basic need under which the CII was created was one of interpretation of what is Islamic and what is not Islamic. Our superior judiciary has a brilliant record of interpreting laws and rules of all complex matters relating to finance, economics, accounts, taxation, science and technology which affect our social life. Islam as a faith being too close to our bosom cannot be exempted from interpretation by the same Judiciary, particularly when Islam does not recognize any priest class having a monopoly on religious matters. Even today, all matters relating to the interpretation of Islamic Sharia are entrusted to the specially constituted Sharia Courts against whose decisions the final verdict is given by the Supreme Court Appellate Shariat Bench. Thus in view of the extremely sensitive nature of questions touching matters of faith, the State has rightly left them to be adjudicated upon by the Judiciary instead of any other body with pretentions of special knowledge on religious matters. It is now commonly felt that the clergy should not be allowed to play ducks and drakes with civil society.
It appears that Islamisation, for which the CII has been used as a tool, has been promoted only for political purposes by every government in Pakistan since the founding of the state. Since family life has been its main focus, its axe has always fallen on women resulting in gender disparities which is not only anti-Islamic but also against the spirit of time. Instead of closing gender gaps in public sectors like health and education, and creating greater female labour force, it has put barriers on women participation in social life and indirectly impeded economic growth and development. What a Pakistani society would look like when all female nursing staff is withdrawn from the hospitals, females are prevented from attending Universities for fear of mixing with the males, and the female judges are made to wear veils. What a pity it is that even after traversing 69 years of a stormy journey we are still bogged down in considerations which have least bearing on our march with other nations which have gone far ahead of us. — The writer is retired Secretary, Government of Punjab, Lahore.