According to Pakistan scholar Farzana Shaikh, post-partition, the majority of Pakistan’s new leaders, even the most personally secular ones, seemed to envision an “Islamically informed constitutional order” for Pakistan – although without an understanding of or any agreement on specifics. Still, their conception of Islam’s role in Pakistan was Muslim-modernist, based on “Islamic ethical and social concerns” rather than strict Islamic law. Many of these early elites had also been leaders of the Pakistan movement and were secular “Muslim nationalists,” like Jinnah. Islamist parties and the ulema, however, who had initially opposed the idea of Pakistan, wanted to implement Islamic law in the new country.
Pakistan’s legal Islamisation began with the Objectives Resolution of 1949, the twelve guiding principles for its future constitution. The resolution was a balanced, if vague, document. Islam was mentioned in three clauses, which dealt with divine sovereignty; the importance of the democratic, social, and ethical principles of Islam; and enabling Muslims to live their lives according to Islam. The resolution also guaranteed the equal rights of religious minorities, and their freedom of expression and of worship, though this was “subject to law and public morality.”
In the debate on the resolution in the Constituent Assembly, Muslims supported it but non-Muslims opposed it, pointing out that the “enabling” clause focused on Muslims alone as opposed to all religions (they argued the latter would have been consistent with Jinnah’s vision). Still, the resolution passed.
Defending the enabling clause, Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, said that the state was:
“...not to play the part of a neutral observer, wherein Muslims may be merely free to profess and practise their religion, because such an attitude would be a very negation of the ideals which prompted the demand for Pakistan...the state will create such conditions as are conducive to the building up of a truly Islamic society, which means that the state will have to play a positive part in this effort.”
Overall, the resolution struck a tolerant chord, treating minorities with respect and assuring them of full rights. But the enabling clause also set up the country for its legal Islamisation. The Jamaat-e-Islami heralded the Objectives Resolution as a victory for Islam and for the Jamaat, and as a step in favour of an Islamic constitution.
After the Objectives Resolution passed, the Jamaat-e-Islami and its head Syed Abul A’la Maududi upped the pressure on Pakistan’s leaders and demanded Sharia and an Islamic state. In November 1952 the Jamaat organised a “constitution week,” demanding Islamic provisions in Pakistan’s constitution. It suited the Muslim League, on the other hand, to keep the role of Islam vague. But Vali Nasr argues that “the Jamaat’s propaganda and manoeuvring and Maududi’s untiring campaign for Islamisation foiled the attempts both of Muslim Leaguers...to extricate Islam from politics and of the government to manipulate Islam for its own ends.”
Pakistan officially became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in its 1956 constitution. The Objectives Resolution formed the preamble. The 1956 constitution also mandated that only a Muslim could be president (the head of state), thus institutionalising explicit discrimination against non-Muslims in the country’s top leadership, but there was no restriction (yet) on the religion of the prime minister (the head of government).
Perhaps the most important Islamic feature of the 1956 constitution was the “repugnancy” clause (article 198), which stated that “no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah, hereinafter referred to as Injunctions of Islam, and existing law shall be brought into conformity with such Injunctions.” The constitution stated that this clause would be implemented via a commission that would advise the federal and provincial legislatures on the issue. In Pakistan’s current constitution this role is fulfilled by the Council of Islamic Ideology.
The “enabling clause” from the Objectives Resolution was expanded upon in the 1956 constitution; it stated that steps would be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan individually and collectively to order their lives in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah, the Prophet’s teachings. It went on to say that the state would endeavour to provide facilities where Muslims would be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Quran and Sunnah; make the teaching of the Quran compulsory; and pro- mote unity and the observance of Islamic moral standards. The constitution also stated there would be an organisation set up for Islamic research “to assist in the reconstruction of Muslim society on a truly Islamic basis.”
Making the teaching of the Quran compulsory and promoting the observance of Islamic moral standards goes beyond “enabling” Muslims to live their lives according to Islam, to an imposition of religion and religious values. Yet at that point the constitution was still vague – what were these “Islamic moral standards”? – about how it would do so.
The 1956 constitution guaranteed the rights of all religions. Article 18 stated that citizens had the freedom to profess, practise, and propagate any religion and the right to establish, maintain, and manage religious institutions. This, sadly, was to change in the 1970s and 1980s.
When the military chief Ayub Khan imposed martial law in 1958, the 1956 constitution was abrogated. Ayub, who was secular and a moderniser, instituted Pakistan’s second constitution in 1962. This second constitution decreed that Pakistan was no longer an Islamic state; it became the “Republic of Pakistan.” Ayub also removed the direct reference to the Quran and Sunnah in the repugnancy clause, which was reworded to say, simply, that no law should be repugnant to Islam, making the reference to religion vague.
Ayub’s two bold moves did not last long. Islamists agitated, and he was forced to reinstate a direct reference to the Quran and Sunnah via the first constitutional amendment of 1963. Via the same amendment, Pakistan once again became an Islamic Republic.
This illustrates the path of Pakistan’s legal Islamisation. It was all but impossible to walk back any references to Islam once they were made constitutionally. Otherwise the 1962 constitution fol-lowed the 1956 constitution on Islam. The wording of the en-abling clause was more or less the same as in 1956, but stated that the teaching of Islamiat (Islamic studies) was to be compulsory for Muslims in addition to the Quran.
The 1973 constitution, which is the current constitution of Pakistan, declared Islam the state religion. It also stated that the president and prime minister were both to be Muslim, cutting off non-Muslims from the two highest leadership positions in the country.
In both these ways it took a firmer stance in favour of Islam than Pakistan’s previous two constitutions. This almost surely had to do with the insecurity Pakistan felt after the secession of Bangladesh in 1971. Under this pressure, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, while personally secular, spoke of “re-Islamising” Pakistan, and even promised to institute Sharia in nine years.
The enabling and repugnancy clauses in 1973 mirrored those in the 1956 constitution. The advisory body that was to review laws to determine repugnancy to the Quran and Sunnah – a commission in the 1956 constitution – would be called the Council of Islamic Ideology.
The constitution guaranteed freedom of religion “subject to law, public order and morality,” and freedom of speech “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence” – a long, albeit vague, list. Freedom of speech was to be curtailed more explicitly later.
The 1973 constitution guaranteed that members of a particular religion would not have to study another religion: “No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.” This law...has been violated by Pakistan’s official curriculum.
Until 1973, then, the Pakistani constitution promised to adhere to Islam and promised the future Islamisation of the legal system through the repugnancy clause. It also foreshadowed, through the enabling clause, the Islamisation of society, making teaching of the Quran and Islamiat compulsory and promoting the observance of Islamic moral standards.
Excerpted with permission from Pakistan Under Siege: Extremism, Society, and the State, Madiha Afzal, Penguin Viking.