Islamisation under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

Teaching of Holy Quran was made compulsory in schools.

Islam has always been the motivating force for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam. Quaid-e-Azam had wanted Pakistan to be a democratic state based on the Islamic principles of social justice. The Objectives Resolution of 1949 was the first constitutional document, which laid down the Islamic principles on which the Constitution of Pakistan would be framed.

In 1974, the 1973 Constitution was amended and a clause incorporated which stated that non-believers in the Finality of Prophethood were non-Muslims. Islamisation was given a new boost when General Zia-ul-Haq took over as the Chief Martial Law Administrator on July 5, 1977. General Zia-ul-Haq was a practicing Muslim who raised the slogan of Islam. The Islamic sentiment has always been fully alive in Pakistan. Various governments have used this to their benefits. The reason why General Zia raised the slogan of Islam is not sure; whether it was for political purposes to counter balance Bhutto’s appeal or was it to enforce Islam in its true sense is not known for sure.

In his first address to the nation, he declared that Islamic laws would be enforced and that earnest attention would be devoted towards establishing the Islamic society for which Pakistan had been created. General Zia wanted to bring the legal, social, economic and political institution of the country in conformity with the Islamic principles, values and tradition in the light of Quran and Sunnah to enable the people of Pakistan to lead their lives in accordance to Islam.

The Government of Zia-ul-Haq took number of steps to eradicate un-Islamic practices from the country. He introduced the Zakat, Ushr, Islamic Hadood and Penal code in the country. Islam is a complete code of life containing specific teachings about all matters. All governments should be based on a proper financial system. The government of General Zia for this purpose invited eminent scholars to compile laws about Islamic financing. The Zakat and Ushr Ordinance to Islamise the economic system was promulgated on June 20, 1980. It covered only Islamic organizations, associations and institutions. Zakat was to be deducted from the account of every Muslim lying in the bank at the rate of 2 % annually above the balance of Rs.3000. Ushr was levied on the yield of agricultural land in cash or kind at the rate of 10% of the agricultural yield, annually.

Government appointed Central, Provincial, District and Tehsil Zakat Committees to distribute Zakat funds to the needy, poor, orphans and widows. The Shias were exempted from Zakat deduction from their accounts. The Zakat tax was to be deducted by the banks on the 1st day of Ramzan.

A Federal Shariat Court was established to decide cases according to the teaching of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. Appeals against the Lower and High Courts were to be presented before the Shriat Court for hearing. It changed the sentence from, life imprisonment to execution in the case of blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon him).

The President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq selected his Majlis-e-Shoora in 1980, the Islamic Parliament to act as the Parliament of Pakistan in place of the National Assembly. Most of the members of the Shoora were intellectuals, scholars, ulema, journalists, economists and professionals belonging to different fields of life. The Shoora was to act as a board of advisors for the President.

A number of other Islamisation programs were carried out including the teaching of Islamiat and Arabic, which were made compulsory. Pakistan Studies and Islamiat were compulsorily taught to BA, B.Sc., Engineering, M.B.B.S, Commerce, Law students and Nursing students. For professional studies extra marks were given to people who were ‘Hafiz-e-Quran’. The first Ombudsman was appointed to rectify the misadministration of the Federal Government, officials and agencies.

A Shariat Council consisting of ulema was established to look into the constitutional and legal matters of the State in order to bring them into line with Islamic thought. Since Islam does not allow interest, On January 1, 1980 Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq introduced in the country ‘Profit and Loss sharing system’. According to which an account holder was to share the loss and profit of the bank. The media was also targeted, especially the T.V was brought under the Islamisation campaign, News in Arabic were to be read on both T.V and radio, female TV announcers were forced to cover their heads with ‘dopattas’, the call for prayers, the Azan, was relayed on radio and television.

In the armed forces, the status of the religious teachers was raised to that of a commissioned officer. This was done to attract highly qualified individuals from the universities and religious institution to serve on such assignments.

As the government grew further in its Islamic leanings, the numbers of mosques were increased. Ordinance for the sanctity of Ramzan-Ul-Mubarik was introduced to pay reverence to the holy month of Ramzan. The Ordinance forbade drinking and eating during the holy month of Ramzan. A three months imprisonment and a fine of 500 rupees were imposed for violating the ordinance. A program to ensure the regularity of prayers called the Nizam-e-Salaat was launched by General Zia himself.

Zia’s Government introduced “Hadood Ordinance” for the first time in Pakistan, which meant the punishments ordained by the Holy Quran or Sunnah on the use of liquor, theft, zina and qazf. Under this Ordinance, a culprit could be sentenced to lashing, life imprisonment and in some cases, death by stoning.

The Islamic laws of Zia also included the laws for the women. Zia put forward the theory of ‘chadar ur chaar devari’ and this was to be applied to women. Thus, for the first time, a woman could be flogged for adultery; if a rape was reported, 4 witnesses were to be provided; otherwise, legally the rape could be termed adultery. Another law, ‘the law of evidence’ under the Shariah laws proposed that the testimony of a woman was not equal to that man: in legal matters, two women would have to stand witness against the testimony of one man. The status of women was thus arbitrarily cut in half by Zia. There was little consensus amongst Muslim authorities over this law. The lack of consensus among the re1igious authorities combined with countrywide protests forced Zia to hold back on making the Shariah law the law of the country.

The most important achievement of Zia’s Government was the implementation of reforms to introduce the Islamic system in the country. General Zia-ul-Haq wanted to make Pakistan the citadel of Islam so that it could play an honorable and prominent role for the Islamic world. The steps taken by General Zia were in the right direction and had long-term impacts, the Zakat tax introduced by General Zia still holds and so do many of the other laws. General Zia set Pakistan on the right track of Islamisation.