BAD laws are the worst sort of tyranny. If any proof were required of this aphorism, one has only to consider the incident that took place in Islamabad on Saturday. Two men have complained they were enjoying soft drinks in their car at the hill resort of Daman-i-Koh when they were challenged by a policeman. The constable told them that they were in violation of the Ramazan laws, which among other things forbid the consumption of food and drink in public places during the hours of fasting. The complainants say that they were taken to the nearby check post and ended up being beaten up by three policemen before being allowed to go. The victims argue that being cognisant that drinking in public might be found offensive, they had deliberately chosen a discrete spot.

There are two points of concern here. First, regardless of whether or not the men were in violation of the law, nothing justifies the treatment they suffered at the hands of the police. The policemen need to be disciplined for what appears to be a serious loss of temper; applying the law, retrogressive though it is, would have been a comparatively better course of action. But more importantly, it needs to be pondered how injudicious legislation emboldens those inclined towards intolerance and hardens their attitudes. The Zia era saw a number of problematic pieces of legislation being passed into law as the state oversaw an ‘Islamisation’ drive, many of which have proved difficult to repeal. While perhaps not as questionable as the infamous blasphemy laws, the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance of 1981 is one of them. It is true that where this law was applied with draconian force in the early years, it is now not often used against citizens except in regrettable but sporadic instances such as that in Islamabad. Now, mainly, it mandates the closure of cinemas and restaurants during fasting hours. Society has opened up in some respects and even the ulema promote Ramazan as a month of tolerance. So perhaps it is time to open up a debate on laws that help promote intolerance.

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Comments (29)

logic Europe
July 31, 2012 1:19 pm
who can dare to challenge this law ?? Imran khan??
Iftikhar Husain
July 31, 2012 10:59 am
Police has no authority to pass judgement and carry out punishment any where in the world. This matter must be taken to theauthority to question these policemen and give them proper punishment.
July 31, 2012 10:48 am
@ Indian...Save your girls first.
Muhammad Alvi
July 31, 2012 10:26 am
When Jinah help create Pakistan, his slogan was that Pakistan will be a secular state which will have freedom of religeon. It means that people can practice any religeon and in any way they want, without interference by each other and by the government. It was Zia who fell in the hands of Mullah's (for political reasons) and created draconian laws such as blasphemy, ihtram-e-Ramazan, etc. Religeon is fine, but it should be kept separate from the state. It is not government's job to enforce any religeon on any person. Islam has survived and flourished 1500 years. It does not need any government's help to survive now.
July 31, 2012 11:51 am
The peole who you claim to be infedals, (Europeans) have a great respect for human beings. I have seen and oberved the police in Europe very gentle, humanitarian and deeply rooted in love for others. Just compare Pakistani police with the, in the case described above, where they proved to be Guardians of Islam!
July 31, 2012 3:03 am
very progressive!! Good luck Sirs.
July 31, 2012 4:14 am
The mother of all outdated laws is the 5 years electoral term imposed upon the people by the elite. It should be reduced to three years so the people have a frequent say on the direction of its destiny and keep the government in perpetual probation. Its is about time the Elites, comprising of Politicians, Institutions and Media share power with the true owners of the Country
Cyrus Howell
July 31, 2012 5:07 am
Pakistan won't have a workable constitution until the religious and the ordinary agree on compromises. How can there be two different kinds of law at the same time?
July 31, 2012 5:25 am
Thank you, Indian.
July 31, 2012 5:35 am
The shadow of the dictator ZIA will haunt this nation in long times to come. All ordinances and amendments in constitution passed in his time were controversial and made the constitution a riddle. Very rightly said that it is not being applied as strictly but nevertheless, a lot of patients of sugar, Blood pressure and heart diseases suffer because of it. Due to our extremist mentality It is really impossible to repeal them, there is a need to redefine the constitution
Abdul Waheed
July 31, 2012 5:50 am
That old / outdated law of Zia Regime is against personal liberties and and a tool in the hands of Police to extort money from the people especially poor labourers.
July 31, 2012 6:42 am
The problem is that nobody wants a SHARIAT to be implemented because they themselves will be restricted. We need to realize that this land were we live is not "PAKISTAN", it is "ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN".
July 31, 2012 3:56 pm
Wow, What perfection in thought, Asad, what clear thinking ! Better gun down tomorrow all those who do not conform to your views
July 31, 2012 4:34 pm
That's right. When you become the judge yourself instead of let God judge, you have just committed the real blasphemy. It should be a private affair whether to fast or not. No where it says it is mandatory and even if it was it is still God who will judge His people.
Malak Ghulam
July 31, 2012 4:47 pm
A knowledge based Educated Society who can still be Religious but can determine Right from Wrong using Sound Principles.
Rafia Mirza
July 31, 2012 4:50 pm
The Zia era paved the way for the pathetic condition the country is now in. I am in Canada, am always happy to hear/read Hassan Nisar's views. Thank God for the coverage the media is giving him. Pakistanis have been fed on lies for too long.
August 1, 2012 12:13 pm
It seems someone in Dawn admins. has developed a personel grudge against me .by throwing most of my comments in basket is this the Dawn we loved for decades and felt here being like home.
Kingrani Sattar
July 31, 2012 6:08 pm
Mangolia, be sane. Firstly clean your home. Then throw dirt on others!
July 31, 2012 6:23 pm
Who said Pakistani police is guardian of Islam? And honestly, Islam needs no guardians.
Karachi Wala
July 31, 2012 6:30 pm
This article does not mention how much money the policemen were able to extort from "The Law Breaker" ? I suppose they were unable to get any. If so, the treatment is justfied. After all it is General Zia'a "ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN".
July 31, 2012 6:37 pm
I challenge any one to have a courage and change the laws of Zia era or even speak against it in public. In reality, the religion in Pakistan has become a cosmetic tool and the results are there for every one to see.Religion as a tool is useful for any one to do any thing wrong and getaway with it. Meanwhile, rest of the world is progressing and moving ahead while Pakistan is going back in the stone age.
July 31, 2012 6:57 pm
.I don't see Police doing any other of their duties. Yeah this law is quite easy to practice. Beat up any one they want to but when it comes down to protection of people, all the important laws are shunned. Hypocrisy at its best.
July 31, 2012 7:11 pm
No wonder the world calls our sharia Islaofascism.
Asif Ansari
July 31, 2012 8:03 pm
DAWN try to start the discussion about the Ehteram-i-Ramazan Ordinance of 1981 which was public in Zia Era. I have no comment about that . But the editorial shows the policeman torture these two person when he saw that they drank the soft drink. In my view both are wrong. Ehteram-i-Ramazan is good for every individual being a Muslim and policeman did not try to beat the individual. If this incident was done, policeman perform his duty as per rule and regulations otherwise authorities must be punish him by the departmental rules and so on.
July 31, 2012 8:52 pm
A few years ago in PECHS area a friend of mine was sitting in his lawn at home and eating his lunch in the month of Ramadan, when the gate was wide open and he did not notice that. Meanwhile two policemen while passing in front of the gate saw him eating enterned the home and got hold of him telling him he was breaking the law and so he was under arrest . They let him go after receiving their bribe but before leaving they took the food with them and ate it outside not caring about the people around them.
July 31, 2012 9:07 pm
Very True Bhatti Sahib, I fully agree.
August 1, 2012 12:37 am
True Rashi, the police in South Asia follow colonial tactics. In Europe the policeman is a friend first. In South Asia the police personnel first look at a person's social standing. Should the citizen be a mere * nobody* , than the person experiences hard police brutality. That's what their handbook and training teaches.
August 1, 2012 2:57 am
Whose Shariat you want ? Sunni Shariat ? Shia Shariat ? Barelvi Shariat ? Deobandi Shariat or Taliban Shariat ?
August 1, 2012 9:31 am
Very true! There can not be two different kinds of law at the same time.
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