The national debate is primarily focused on politics and to some extent on the economy of extremism. A part of the constitution and numerous religious laws enacted under different regimes have strengthened, amplified, and promoted extremism in Pakistan. The Objective Resolution was the first document after independence that set the course of extremism in Pakistan. The document created a religious theory of governance, inspired by Maulana Moudodi’s concept of Divine Sovereignty, the first of its kind in subcontinent Muslim history. It was bulldozed through majoritarianism against democratic norms, in face of absolute resistance from non-Muslim members in the 1956 constituent assembly. The ideas in the document are too abstract to be useful for practical purposes. However, it strengthened the minute religious class that was opposed to the creation of Pakistan. It weakened the majority of moderate Muslims who do not see collective state matters from a religious perspective. It disenfranchised non- religious publics who were significant in numbers in East Pakistan. Objective Resolution restricted and chained the political thought of a nascent country that otherwise had immense possibilities and potentials, instead of going into a specific narrow religious direction through the supremacy of a small religious class. The document was kept as a preamble of all three constitutions by successive governments under the influence of religious classes and became a substantive part of the eighth amendment.
Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan presented the Objective Resolution
The principles of policy in the constitution of 1973, regarding enforcing the Islamic way of life were a natural development after taking the religious course. The Islamic principles of policy have set goals giving religious classes a cause for politics to Islamize society that otherwise may have focused on socio-economic agenda. Part 9 of the constitution deals with Islamic provision. It is an unnecessary pronouncement in a country where Muslims are in majority. The Council of Islamic Ideology is another non-democratic feature of the Pakistani constitutions. The Council judges legislation is based on religion and may overrule the whole parliament.
The Council of Islamic Ideology
The Federal Shariat Court is another unnecessary structure in parallel to the main judiciary without any purpose. The Pakistani state also has a religion, Islam, in the onset of the constitution just like an individual. The name of the state has the word ‘Islamic’. The second amendment about declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslim is an extreme example of hate and insanity. A constitution is defining a religion.
The high number of Islamic provisions in the constitution keeps religious issues in the mainstream providing a chance for extremists to thrive. The proliferation of religious provisions and their enactment makes it hard even for moderate religious thought to compete against extreme interpretations. The majority of non-religious thought is completely overshadowed by tiny minority extremist ideas. The obsession with Islam in the constitution in a predominantly Muslim majority country is beyond reason.
The enormous numbers of religious laws are more disturbing even than Islamic constitutional provisions. I will restrict myself to Hudood and Blasphemy laws. These laws were created by a dictator and later adopted without any proper scrutiny by parliament. Democratic governments did not touch it because of prevailing extremism in the country for fear of losing public support. The Islamic criminal laws are in parallel to the mainstream legal system that we inherited from the British. The two systems could not merge well because the spirit and philosophy of both systems are different. Some cases were initially tried under Islamic laws. The national and global public are not appreciative of harsh medieval punishments. The courts use British laws normally. The Islamic laws are mostly used for political purposes or personal vendettas. These laws are merely a tool for politics and provide extremists a reason to exist and thrive. The blasphemy laws are a rallying point for extremists. They are self-appointed guardians of these laws.
The blasphemy cases skyrocketed after these laws further strengthened extremists. The sane voices within Islamic scholars such as Javed Ahmed Ghamdi are against the blasphemy laws. The laws and executions unnecessarily strengthen those religious parties and groups whose politics revolves around Islam at the expense of mainstream parties whose agendas are usually political and socio-economic but are somehow dragged into non-issues relating to manmade Islamic laws.
Another equally disturbing dimension is the non-application of law against extremists when they transgress laws. The criminal justice system consisting of the law enforcing agencies, courts, lawyers, and journalists are usually soft against excesses and crimes of the extremists. The glorification and lionization of fanatics by fellow extremists and hate-mongering and inciting violence against peaceful and in many cases innocent people is a routine matter. Extremists kill and burn whole neighborhoods on basis of blasphemy charges. Many police persons and innocent civilians are killed at the hands of extremists while agitating against religious laws. The honorable Justice Essa Qazi, a supreme court judge gave a verdict against law enforcement and their weaknesses. The paralysis of the criminal justice system before extremists is one of the main reasons for growing extremism.
There is an urgent need to move in two directions in legal matters to control the menace of extremism.
- First, the provisions in the constitution and religious statutory laws need revision or outright abrogation. A political consensus or at least two-thirds majority in parliament is required to remove overly religious content from the constitution and laws that strengthen extremism, promote violence, and sanctify irrational social norms.
- Second, the legal regime and executing mechanism against extremists need further strengthening.
- The police, courts, lawyers, and journalists covering extremists should be given special training to sensitize them about the gravity of the situation. The special anti-extremism courts on the pattern of anti-terrorism courts would be helpful.