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Secular Political Opponents

In the context of Islamic policy making, President Zia had two types of political opponents — those who argued that Zia’s Nizam-i-Mustafa went too far and those who argued that it did not go far enough. This section looks at the interests of the former; the next at the latter.

Secular opponents of Nizam-i-Mustafa and of President Zia attacked the policy from several directions. Among the more prominent arguments were: (a) 7he human rights argument. The punishments specified in the Iludood Ordinances (stoning to death, amputation, whipping) constitute cruel and unusual punishments, and border on barbarism, (b) The reactionary argument. Nizam-i-Mustafa is characterized as an attempt to set Pakistan back fourteen hundred years to the time of the Rightly- Guided Caliphs. • (c) The undemocratic argument. Zia’s Islamization program was designed to lend support to an unpopular military regime. His policies had the effect of banning political parties and silencing political opposition, (d) 7he anti-minority argument. The Nizam-i-Mustafa discriminates against non-Muslims, particularly the Ahmadiyya, and Christians. A corollary of this argument is that Nizam-i-Mustafa is dominated by the Sunni Ilanafi fiqh, that is, it is anti-Shia. (e) The misogyny argument. Nizam-i-Mustafa discriminates against the rights of women. And (0 the anti-rational argument. Nizam-i-Mustafa is opposed to modernity and Westernization; and it is obscurantist.

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In practice, secular opponents of Nizam-i-Mustafa usually combined these arguments. For instance, a typical attack by Benazir Bhutto against the Hudood Ordinances was reported by The Muslim on 12 February 1988. In the three-paragraph article she charged that the Hudood Ordinances are antidemocratic, reactionary, barbaric, anti-female, and prop up an “illegal regime.”59 There was a certain amount of intentional hyperbole in such attacks against the Nizam-i-Mustafa. For instance, in this piece Benazir goes on to charge that “the Zia-Junejo regime is involved in making stoning to death and public hangings a spectator sport.”

The nature of Pakistan’s news media encourages such overstatements — accuracy of reporting never having been one of the hallmarks of the journalistic profession in Pakistan. Compounding this difficulty, many of the issues relevant to the implementation of Nizam-i-Mustafa are technical and difficult to discuss adequately in the mass-based media. Also, the government did not choose to contest overstatements in the news media. There was little, if any, prior censorship of statements bearing on the Islamization program, and more remarkably very few rejoinders were ever issued by the government against biased or false news reporting. Perhaps the government perceived its interests well served by a loud and aggressive, if inaccurate, media. After all, such evidence of dissent “proved” that the government was enthusiastically implementing Nizam-i-Mustafa. Paradoxically, if the government refuted such charges it would leave itself open to countercharges that it was not implementing its professed policies.

Not surprisingly, the Western press, eager to see evidence of reactionary “fundamentalist Islam,” repeated such inaccuracies. Numerous articles appeared in various newspapers including The Guardian and The New York Times which stressed the extreme nature of Zia’s reforms. Such distortions also found their way into academic analyses of the Islamic reform.

The Lsiaw-jms/LVD

There was also considerable, if less vocal, opposition to Zia’s Nizam-i-Mustafa on the grounds that it did not go far enough. Given the slow pace of change that has been chronicled here, such sentiments seem warranted. However, those groups that would have liked to see more thorough implementation were caught in a dilemma. First, they constituted a small minority in the institutions which administered the Nizam-i-Mustafa. The courts and the bureaucracy are dominated by Islamic moderates. Second, there was and remains a widespread belief in Pakistan that the Nizam-i-Mustafa was being implemented enthusiastically. Accordingly, the Islam-pasand’s views were often dismissed as extremist. Third, the Islam-pasand constitute a very small minority of Pakistan’s overall population. Finally, given the opposition to the Nizam-i-Mustafa voiced by Zia’s political opponents, the advocates of Islamic reform were given little choice but to tacitly support the policies of the government.

The views of the Islam-pasand were well summarized in an interview I had with a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology in 1987. The subject of the interview had been instrumental in formulating the council’s draft law of evidence. When I asked him his views regarding the Qanoon-i-Shahadat of 1984 he shrugged and said, “I will not see the Shari'ah implemented in my lifetime. My children will not see the Shari'ah implemented in their lifetime. But my children’s children might see the Shari'ah implemented in their lifetime if we [the council] do the right things now. Our job is to recommend what should be done not what will be done.”


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