Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Who’s afraid of CII?

Published Apr 07, 2014 07:31am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

LATELY, more and more voices are being raised for the abolition of the Council of Islamic Ideology. The strongest demand has come from the Sindh Assembly which, through a unanimous resolution passed on March 31, asked the federal government to get rid of this body citing recent anti-women views expressed by it. Earlier several civil society organisations and women’s rights groups had made similar demands.

The CII has lately hogged the headlines with a flurry of opinions and recommendations that, if considered, would roll back whatever some positive legislation, enacted over several decades, has managed to achieve for women’s rights.

Its first salvo was against DNA testing in cases of rape. DNA tests, in most countries that prefer to live by the rules of law and justice, are considered the most conclusive evidence not only in instances of rape but in other crimes as well. As long as DNA test reports are not accepted as primary evidence in rape cases by Pakistan’s judicial system, the conviction rate for rape will remain negligible and survivors will continue to be denied justice.

Recently, two successive sets of opinion expressed by the CII raised alarm bells. The first pertained to polygamy. In its infinite wisdom, the CII declared that, contrary to the provisions of the Family Laws Ordinance, the permission of the first wife is not required for a man to contract a second marriage.

It should be noted that the Family Laws Ordinance, promulgated in 1961, has been under attack from the religious right since the time it was proposed; the formation of CII strengthened the opposition. The last effort made by the CII to nullify or water down its provisions was during the government of Gen Pervez Musharraf.

More recently, the CII trained its guns on children, decreeing that the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 was contrary to the Sharia which recognised adulthood as reaching puberty, regardless of age. It opined that parents and guardians had the right to marry off their children whenever they attained puberty. While this deplorable practice is still prevalent, at least there is legal protection for minors which the CII is keen to snatch away.

Moreover, Pakistan is committed under international conventions that it has signed, such as Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, to bring national laws in conformity with accepted international standards.

So who is afraid of the CII?

Successive governments, it seems. It would not be fair to blame the PML-N alone. The current Council of Islamic Ideology was formed by the former PPP government and its chairmanship given to Maulana Sherani of the JUI-F in exchange for support in parliament.

However, fear of extremist ideology, when it surfaces under the tag of ‘Islam’ is so pervasive that some PML-N leaders quickly echoed the CII’s recent views on child marriage, rather than support the amendments to the Child Marriage Restraint Act proposed by their own party MNA Marvi Memon. She was simply proposing raising the minimum age of marriage to 18, harsher punishment for those violating the law and making clear the jurisdiction of the courts in such matters.

Questions have been frequently raised on the need for the CII when the Constitution of Pakistan itself has many Islamic provisions, and the overwhelming Muslim majority in parliament makes the passage of any law contrary to Islam impossible. Moreover, parliaments in Pakistan have been traditionally conservative, choosing to err on the side of caution when it comes to matters related to Islam. In 1974, a relatively more liberal parliament declared Ahmedis to be non-Muslims and, even today, members shy away from any discussion on reforms in blasphemy laws.

Although it enjoys constitutional status, the CII’s role is advisory only. Set up under the Constitution of 1962 as the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology, its entity was retained in the Constitution of 1973, though the word ‘advisory’ was dropped. It was possibly most active, much to the detriment of citizens’ rights, during the military regime of Gen Ziaul Haq.

During this period, laws passed on its recommendations include the Hudood Ordinances, 1979, encompassing the Zina ordinance, the Ehteram-i-Ramzan Ordinance 1984 and the Qanoon-i-Shahadat Ordinance 1984. The Federal Shariat Court was also established on the CII’s advice. The spate of legislation ostensibly based on Sharia, witnessed during the Zia regime, is a clear indication that any government, should it choose to entrench itself in the name of Islam, will find a willing ally in the CII.

Any ambitious ruler can easily manipulate this religious body to recommend regressive legislation that will create dictatorship in the name of Islam. And that is a danger to watch out for.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (7) Closed

Umer.Farooq Apr 07, 2014 10:43am

Sharia court is still under the supreme court and abides by the law which is based on british indian act, 1935 transformed into 1973 constitution of Pakistan. Secondly, CII is an advisory body only. Why to afraid of it? There are over 90 thousands recommednations from CII but legislators failed to implement a single despite overwhelming majority. :)

Bannu wala Apr 07, 2014 11:31am

Nobody is afraid of CII. Except if you oppose them, very likely you will be found under a bridge. Or beside a highway. A month later.

Sam Apr 07, 2014 01:59pm

Have any of the members of the CII obtained a degree in Islamic theology?

Jaffer Apr 07, 2014 02:52pm

DNA tests are also 'conclusive and primary evidence' in the billions of marriages and acts of consensual intercourses taking place thorough out the world.

Perhaps ms. Zohra, bounce your thoughts on other people before putting pen to paper?

Parvez Apr 07, 2014 04:54pm

A timely article and one that needs to be heeded. Like most religious institutions in the country the CII has less to do with Islam and its forward looking principles and more to do with politics and mischief making. The irony is that most such institutions are established by the ' other ' side with the distorted intention of using it for their own advancement............little did they realize that the monster they are creating would in time devour them. The tragedy is that those responsible for creating such messes do not have the will nor the capability to set matters right.

Sadia Zafar Apr 07, 2014 07:05pm

I personally do not see any reason for religion to be part of state, but would still like to draw attention to the fact that much of Islamic jurisprudence was coded in tenth century, about 300 years after prophet died. So why can't we recode it in the twenty-first century according to contemporary needs hopefully, unanimously by qualified religious scholars like Javaid Ghamdi.

shahid Apr 08, 2014 01:12am

There is n need for either CII or the Federal Shariat Court. The functions assigned to them should be the responsibility of the Supreme Court/High Courts of Pakistan. Our Judges should be trained in the Islamic law to deal with all such issues. We should have a single integrated system of justice and adjudication of questions of law which should be based on ajudicious mix of the Islamic and contemporary laws.