Supreme Court Rul­ing

Southasia - - The last stop -

led by Zi­aur Rehman’s widow, Khal­ida Zia, and the other by Ja­maat-e-Is­lami, that chal­lenged an Au­gust 2005 High Court de­ci­sion declar­ing the Fifth Amend­ment il­le­gal. The Court had ear­lier granted a stay or­der that was ul­ti­mately va­cated on Jan­uary 3, 2010. Re­sul­tantly, the orig­i­nal Ar­ti­cle 38 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which pro­tected sec­u­lar­ism, be­came op­er­a­tive bar­ring the use of re­li­gion or com­mu­nal con­no­ta­tions in pol­i­tics.

Such de­ci­sions al­ways have long-term im­pacts on the so­cial and po­lit­i­cal fab­ric of a coun­try, as shown by the sub­se­quent Dhaka High Court de­ci­sion in which it held that no­body can be forced to wear burqa, cap, or dhoti. The Court held that Bangladesh is now a sec­u­lar state since the orig­i­nal con­sti­tu­tion of 1972 has been au­to­mat­i­cally re­stored fol­low­ing the Supreme Court judg­ment. It said that ‘in this sec­u­lar state, ev­ery­body has reli­gious free­dom, and there­fore no man, woman or child can be forced to wear reli­gious at­tires.’ Sim­i­larly, it stated that ‘no­body could be pro­hib­ited from wear­ing reli­gious at­tires if he or she wishes to wear those.’ The Court also di­rected the au­thor­i­ties to im­me­di­ately is­sue a cir­cu­lar ask­ing all ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions not to com­pel students to wear reli­gious clothes.

The Supreme Court rul­ing by the six-mem­ber full bench headed by for­mer Chief Jus­tice Mo­ham­mad Tafaz­zul Is­lam, has laid the foun­da­tion for a process of re­viv­ing the sec­u­lar spirit in Bangladesh. Sec­u­lar­ism is looked down upon and as­so­ci­ated with ladee­niat in Pak­istan when all it stands for is nega­tion of State level in­volve­ment in reli­gious mat­ters. It stands for sep­a­ra­tion of clergy from run­ning of state af­fairs, which may not be such a bad thing to sug­gest for present-day Pak­istan. Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

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