Islamic Republic of Pakistan Policy Brief: 2010 – 2011

Islamic Republic of Pakistan Policy Brief: 2010 – 2011

I. Background

● Pakistan is a federal republic with a significant role for Islamic law in the Constitution and legal system. The military establishment is the primary power-broker in the country and provides support and funding to Islamic militant groups operating throughout the region.

● The U.S. has a number of critical strategic interests in Pakistan, including counter-terrorism and enhancing regional security, preventing nuclear proliferation, and promoting democracy.

● Religious minorities, including Hindus, Christians, and Ahmadiyas, face widespread persecution and a complex set of discriminatory laws and constitutional injunctions.

● The modern Pakistani state was created by partitioning the Indian sub-continent in 1947, following the British withdrawal from India. At the time of Partition, the Hindu population in Pakistan was approximately 26%, but millions of Hindus and Sikhs fled violence and riots for the safety of India. Prior to Partition, Hindu culture and civilization had flourished in Pakistan for thousands of years.

● Muslims currently comprise 95% of the population (Sunnis 75% and Shias 20%), and minorities, including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, are approximately 5%. Hindus are the largest minority and are estimated at just under 2% (human rights groups, however, believe the government has intentionally lowered the figures to deprive minorities of services and political representation).

● Pakistan is home to a number of diverse ethnic groups, including Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis, Pasthuns, and Mohajirs (migrants from India at the time of partition), but Punjabis, the largest ethnic group, dominate the ranks of the military and government.


II. Religious Discrimination and the Legal System

Constitutional Provisions Promoting Islam

● Article 2 declares Islam as the state religion, and Article 31 protects and promotes the Islamic way of life and moral standards.

● Articles 41 and 91 provide that a person must be Muslim to be qualified for the position of President and Prime Minister, respectively. All elected officials must swear an oath in the name of Allah and “strive to preserve the Islamic ideology” of Pakistan.

● Article 203A – 203J establishes the power and jurisdiction of the Federal Shariat (Islamic law) Courts; Articles 227 – 231 provide that all laws must be in conformity with Islamic injunctions, and creates an Islamic Council to advise Parliament and Provincial Assemblies on whether laws contradict Islamic Injunctions.

Pakistan Penal Code

● The Blasphemy Laws impose severe punishments for insults to the Prophet Muhammad or desecration of the Koran. Section 295-C provides the harshest penalty, mandating the death penalty for derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad.

● The Hudood Ordinance, based on Islamic law, covers 10 offenses, including adultery, fornication, and rape. The Women‟s Protection Act of 2006 was intended to reform the Hudood Ordinance to provide greater protection to women, but relevant provisions were recently struck down by the Shariat (Islamic law) Court.