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Legal Reforms In Pakistan: 1979-89

It has been over a decade since the late President Ziaul Haq promulgated his Islamic reforms (Nizam-i-Mustafa) in Pakistan.

I contend that these reforms have had only a minor impact upon the political, legal, social, and economic institutions of the state. This observation departs from conventional interpretations.1 Admittedly, the politicization of the process of Islamization has played a very significant role in the political environment of Pakistan during the 1980s. During Zia’s regime, the Islamic re- forms had a very prominent public profile. Hardly a day passed in which one or more of the issues of the program were not the focus of political debate in Pakistan. Zia’s government portrayed the reforms as leading Pakistan in the direction of becoming “truly Islamic,” and promised rapid and thorough implementation of the reforms. Opponents of the reform also argued that the reforms were being implemented rapidly although they deemed aspects of the reforms as misguided, reactionary, antidemocratic, and/or discriminatory to women. I contend, however, that such rhetoric, despite its strident nature, was primarily “political noise,” signifying little in regard to implementation or public policy. This chapter attempts to defend this hypothesis by first tracing in broad strokes the cautious implementation of Islamic legal reform in Pakistan during Zia’s administration. Then, it will offer an explanation of the continued vitality of the Nizam-i-Mustafa, despite such “non-implementation,” by exploring the interests of relevant institutional actors. A final section will speculate on the future of Nizam-i-Mustafa in the context of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s first administration.


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Source: Islamization of Laws and Economy: Case Studies on Pakistan, Charles Kennedy. Republished with permission.