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Islamic Legal Reform and the Status of Women in Pakistan

Islamic Legal Reform and the Status of Women in Pakistan

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Published by Usman Ahmad
The issue of the status of women has figured prominently in the policy
environment surrounding the implementation of Pakistan's Islamization
programme. Critics of Islamization have often focused their attention
on the alleged discriminatory effects of the programme on the rights of
women. Indeed, during the 1988 general election campaign Benazir
Bhutto promised to rescind the hudud ordinances. And, one of her first
acts after assuming office was to release all women convicts in Pakistan's
jails, save those who were convicted murderers.
The issue of the status of women has figured prominently in the policy
environment surrounding the implementation of Pakistan's Islamization
programme. Critics of Islamization have often focused their attention
on the alleged discriminatory effects of the programme on the rights of
women. Indeed, during the 1988 general election campaign Benazir
Bhutto promised to rescind the hudud ordinances. And, one of her first
acts after assuming office was to release all women convicts in Pakistan's
jails, save those who were convicted murderers.

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Published by: Usman Ahmad on Jun 09, 2014
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© Journal
 of
 Islamic Studies
 11
 (1991)
 pp.
 45-55
ISLAMIC LEGAL REFORM
 AND THE
STATUS
 OF
 WOMEN
 IN
 PAKISTAN
1
CHARLES H. KENNEDY
Wake Forest
 University,
 Winston-Salem, N.C., USA
The issue
 of
 the status
 of
 women
 has
 figured
 prominently
 in the
 policyenvironment surrounding the implementation
 of
 Pakistan's Islamization
programme.
 Critics
 of
 Islamization have often focused their attentionon
 the
 alleged discriminatory effects
 of
 the programme
 on the
 rights
 of
women. Indeed, during
 the 1988
 general election campaign BenazirBhutto promised
 to
 rescind
 the
 hudud
 ordinances. And, one
 of
 her firstacts after assuming office was
 to
 release all women convicts in Pakistan's
jails,
 save those
 who
 were convicted murderers.
2
 As
 explained
 by the
then Minister
 of
 Justice, Aitzaz Ahsan, this action served
 to
 redress
 the
injustices meted
 out to
 women convicted under
 the
 terms
 of
 the
 hudud
ordinances.
 Benazir's case
 was
 strengthened during September
 1989,
when
 a
 series
 of
 documentaries were broadcast
 on
 American and Britishtelevision
 and
 radio. Each
 of
 these documentaries focused
 on the
 rightsof women in Pakistan, each argued that the Islamization process discrim-
1
 Most
 of
 the material
 for
 this paper was gathered under the auspices
 of
 the Fulbright-Hays Programme (1984-85). Subsequently, support
 has
 been provided
 by the
 ArchieFund
 for
 Facility Excellence
 of
 Wake Forest University;
 the
 Research
 and
 PublicationFund
 of the
 Graduate School
 of
 Wake Forest University;
 and by the
 American Instituteof Pakistan Studies. Earlier versions
 of
 this paper were presented
 at the
 Association
 for
Asian Studies annual convention, Washington DC (17-19 March 1989)
 and
 the CanadianPolitical Science Association annual convention, Victoria B.C. (27-29
 May
 1990).
1
 Daum,
 4
 December, 1988.
 It is
 uncertain
 how
 many women were affected
 by
 thismeasure.
 The
 number
 of
 women convicts and/or prisoners
 in
 Pakistan
 is
 subject
 to
considerable dispute.
 A
 study completed
 by the
 Women's Division
 of the
 Governmentof Pakistan
 in
 1982 revealed that there were only 70 women convicts
 in all of
 Pakistan's
jails:
 Pervai2 Naeem Tariq,
 Female Crime
 in
 Rural
 and
 Urban Areas
 of
 Pakistan
(Women's Division, Islamabad, 1984). Conversely,
 the
 ABC Documentary Veil
 of
 Dark-
ness'
 (September 1989) claimed that 'thousands
 of
 women remain accused, not convicted,on the charge
 of
 vna
and
 that 'thousands have been arrested
 on
 xinff
 charges.' Inquiriesmade
 by the
 author
 in
 early
 1990
 disclosed that there were approximately 300—400women prisoners
 in
 Pakistan's jails
 at
 that time; with one-third
 to
 one-half convicts.Source: interviews with officials
 of
 Women's Division (Islamabad), Prisoner's Aid Society(Karachi),
 and
 Pakistan Women's Lawyer Association (Karachi).
  a  t   a  s  t   C  a  ol  i  n a  Uni   v e  s i   t   y on J   un e  9  , 0  t   t   p :  /   /   j  i   s  . oxf   o d  j   o un a l   s  . o g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f   om 
 
46 CHARLES H. KENNEDY
inated against the rights of women, and each called for the repeal ofthe
 hudud
 ordinances.
3
 Nevertheless, Benazir's administration wasunable or unwilling to halt the process of Islamization in the state. Theofficial explanation is that the government's hands were tied as Benazir'scoalition government controlled far less support than the two-thirdsmajority needed to amend Pakistan's constitution. It also must be notedthat the government took few, if any, administrative steps to slow thepace of Islamization. In fact, several important issues pertaining toIslamization, dormant during the latter days of the Zia regime, wereaddressed by the Supreme Court during Benazir's tenure. Such findingsof the Supreme Court have expanded the scope and hastened the paceof the process of Islamization in the state.
4
This paper presents evidence which supports the following points.(1) The implementation of Islamic laws under Pakistan's Islamizationprogramme has not had a significantly adverse impact on the rights ofwomen. (2) Many of the charges levelled against the Islamization pro-gramme have either misrepresented the relevant laws or exaggeratedthe scope and pace of their implementation. (3) Nevertheless, the intro-duction of Islamic laws in Pakistan has exacerbated existing socialinequalities in the state. Moreover, the political costs to Pakistan, bothdomestic and international, have been great.To demonstrate these contentions this paper will first examine twointerrelated sets of policies which have affected the rights of women:the
 hudud
 ordinances; and gender-based testimony restrictions. Thesehave been the two most important and frequently discussed issuesbearing upon the rights of women in Pakistan, although in no wayexhaustive of all such issues. Throughout, the analysis will rely on caselaw, and the legal interpretations of Pakistan's superior courts withparticular emphasis placed on the decisions of the Federal Shariat Court
(FSC).
 Secondly, the paper will examine the political and social costsattendant on such legal reforms.
' Such documentaries distort the facts concerning the implementation of the Islamiz-ation programme. For instance, the ABC documentary 'Veil of Darkness' claimed thatthe
 badd
 penalty for adultery had been awarded eight times during 1989. In fact, the
hadd
 penalty for adultery has been awarded only four times since 1979 by the districtcourts, and in all such instances the penalty has been set aside by the
 FSC.
 Also erroneousis the claim made in the same documentary that 'Pakistan law required four eyewitnessesfor the conviction of rape.' (See discussion below.)* For instance, the Court ruled in Federation of Pakistan v. Gul Hasan Khan
 All-Pakistan Legal
 (PLD)
 1989 SC 633 that provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code pertainingto bodily hurt (murder, manslaughter, etc.) were un-Islamic. Also, in Qazalbash Waqfv. Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab
 PLD
 1990 SC 99 the Court found that ZulfikarAh' Bhutto's land reforms of 1972 and 1977 were repugnant to Islam.
  a  t   a  s  t   C  a  ol  i  n a  Uni   v e  s i   t   y on J   un e  9  , 0  t   t   p :  /   /   j  i   s  . oxf   o d  j   o un a l   s  . o g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f   om 
 
ISLAMIC LEGAL REFORM
 47
HUDVD
 ORDINANCES
On 10 February 1979,
 Zia
 al-Haq promulgated four ordinances, collect-ively referred
 to as the
 'Ipudud
 ordinances' which were crafted
 to
 makesignificant revisions in Pakistan's criminal law system. Namely, revisionswere made
 in
 criminal statutes bearing upon sex-related crimes
 (zina
1
)
and theft.
 In
 addition,
 new
 laws were introduced through
 the
 vehicleof
 the
 ordinances bearing
 on
 prohibition
 and
 qadhf
 the
 wrongfulimputation
 of
 zina').
5
 In
 keeping with
 the
 Islamic intent
 of the
ordinances, each established distinctions between
 hadd
 crimes (crimesexpressly defined
 in the
 Qur'an
 and
 Sunna),
 and
 ta
l
ztr
 crimes, both
 in
regard
 to
 punishments
 and
 evidentiary requirements.Of particular relevance
 to
 this study,
 the
 overwhelming majority
 of
cases tried under
 the
 ipudud
 ordinances have fallen under
 the
 rubric
 of
the
 zina'
 ordinance.'
 The
 zinc?
 ordinance specifies
 ten
 separate
 sex-
related crimes.'
 Of
 these crimes,
 two
 have drawn most
 of the
 attentionof women's rights activists: adultery/fornication (section 10[2]),
 and
rape (section 10[3]).
Adultery/fornication
Critics
 of the
 former provision have argued that
 the
 enforcement
 of an
adultery/fornication
 law
 discriminates against women because unmar-ried pregnant women
 or
 women
 who
 give birth
 to
 illegitimate childrenwould be/have been singled
 out for
 punishment under
 the law
 whilemen (equally 'guilty') would
 not be
 charged/would
 be set
 free owingto lack
 of
 evidence.' This argument
 was
 given credence
 and
 becamepoliticized through
 the
 tragic case
 of
 Safia Bibi.
'
 The
 Offences Against Property (Enforcement
 of
 Hudud)
 Ordinance,
 PLD
 1979
Central Statutes 44;
 the
 Offence
 of
 Zma
(Enforcement
 of
 Hudid)
 Ordinance,
 PLD
 1979Centra] Statutes 51;
 The
 Offence
 of
 Qadbf
 (Enforcement
 of
 Hudud)
 Ordinance
 PLD
1979 Central Statutes 56;
 and The
 Prohibition (Enforcement
 of
 Hadd)
 Order PLD
 1979
Central Statutes
 33.
' Charles
 H.
 Kennedy, 'Islamizarion
 in
 Pakistan: Implementation
 of the
 Hudud
Ordinances,'
 Asian Survey
 xxxiii,
 3
 (March 1988), 309-10.
7
 Adultery/fornication; rape; kidnapping; sodomy; enticement; attempted rape; abet-ment
 of
 xinS
 crime;
 hadd
 adultery/fornication; deceitful marriage;
 and
 conspiracy
 to
engage
 in
 prostitution.* See
 for
 instance, Anita Weiss, 'Implications
 of
 the Islamizarion Program
 for
 Women',in Anita Weiss,
 ed.,
 Islamic
 Reassertion
 in
 Pakistan
 (Syracuse University Press, Syracuse1986),
 100-1;
 Zia's
 Law
Human Rights under Military Rule
 in
 Pakistan
 (Lawyer'sCommittee
 for
 Human Rights, New York, 1985), 98-9;
 and
 Khawar Muratai and FaridaShaheed
 eds.,
 Women
 of
 Pakistan:
 Two
 Steps Forward,
 One
 Step Back?
 Zed
 Books,London, 1987),
 100.
  a  t   a  s  t   C  a  ol  i  n a  Uni   v e  s i   t   y on J   un e  9  , 0  t   t   p :  /   /   j  i   s  . oxf   o d  j   o un a l   s  . o g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f   om 

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