CII and so­cial re­al­i­ties

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Za­far Aziz Chaudhry Email: za­

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.

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