Zia leads Pakistan deeper into Islam
Karachi, Pakistan — When President Zia ul-Haq recently announced a timetable for restoration of civilian law to Pakistan, he also vowed to continue on the path of Islamization.
The reforms President Zia is implementing in the name of Islam range from the trivial to the far-reaching.
From the prohibition on liquor consumption and dress codes for civil servants to more fundamental adjustments of legislation to Koranic practices, in one way or another each measure affects the lives of Pakistan's 85 million citizens.
While it is widely acknowledged that President Zia is a deeply religious man, sincerely committed to Islamization, there are many opponents who regard Islamization partly as a political maneuver to curry favor with the influential religious and merchant community in Pakistan.
Underlining the political aspect of Islamization, Zia recently remarked that ''Pakistan is an ideological country and there is no room for secularism or any 'ism' other than Islam.'' General Zia has ruled Pakistan by martial-law decree for six years.
A leader of the banned anti-Zia opposition Pakistani People's Party remarked that ''we are deeply attached to Islamization, but what we don't want to see is 'mullahism' in Pakistan,'' a reference to the takeover of power by conservative religious and merchant elements in neighboring Iran following the overthrow of the Shah by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Some Western and Pakistani observers characterize the Islamization movement as a type of ''Poujadism'' akin to the right-wing shopkeepers' political front in post-war France. ''Islam can mean many things to many people,'' notes a Pakistani liberal opposition university professor, who says he is plunging into Islamic studies to more effectively argue against the trend.
(Meanwhile, a civil disobedience campaign throughout Pakistan against President's Zia decision to postpone elections until early 1985 has begun to slow down. Leaders of the Movement to Restore Democracy, a coalition of antigovernment political parties, have vowed to ''court arrest'' until Zia is forced to hold early elections. The President, however, apparently feeling the protest movement is under control, is preparing to leave on a six-day visit to Turkey, according to Reuters.)
Despite the concern aroused in the West about Pakistan's Islamization and some opposition to it within the country, Zia's movement appears to be meeting with acquiescence by most Pakistanis. Its extent and pace, however, are still the subject of a national debate.
Much of the discussion in the press and in public forums appears to revolve around the status of women in society. Some fundamentalist Islamic leaders have been arguing for strict separation of the sexes, in some cases going as far as advocating that women should not hold regular jobs. This controversy has led to the creation of a vocal Woman's Action Forum to lobby against such arguments and other forms of discrimination.
One controversy that attracted considerable attention and galvanized women's and opposition movements was a proposed ''law of evidence'' that would have required the testimony of two women to have the same legal weight as the testimony of a single man in court proceedings. The proposed legislation was adopted by the appointed Majlis-i-Shoora assembly (created by Zia to take the place of the dissolved legislature). But the legislation encountered so much criticism that President Zia has withheld his signature.
The segregation of women is among the most visible everyday examples of the Islamization process. Women's sports contests are not open to male spectators. There are male and female sections at ordinary bus stops in some cities. And some hotels have separate facilities for the female members of a family.
The once-familiar female sari has also been banned for government personnel and wearing it is discouraged in general because it viewed as more Indian than Islamic. Western-style clothes have been largely replaced by the Awami, or ''people's suit,'' introduced as an egalitarian measure for both men and women by former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was overthrown by General Zia and the Army in 1977 and later hanged.
Although, like most other Pakistani politicians, Bhutto regularly proclaimed his Islamic convictions, his overthrow was largely attributed to these same conservative religious and commercial forces that support General Zia. Close links are said to exist between the President and the Jamaat-i-Islami Party, a powerful fudamentalist party.
Since his accession to power six years ago, President Zia has Islamized an increasing number of social and governmental aspects of Pakistani life. The legal system and penal code have been amended. The changes include provisions for flogging for theft, adultery, and other offenses and the prohibition against alcohol. In the economic sphere, new taxes based on Koranic principles of charity and generosity have been adopted and a state-run, interest-free banking system has been set up because of the Koran's condemnation of usury.
In practice, however, the concept of interest has merely been replaced by a profit-sharing plan, according to Pakistani banking sources. In schools, textbooks have been reviewed and changed and Islamic studies made compulsory for graduation and civil service exams. Greater training is given in Islamic jurisprudence, with the help of Saudi Arabian scholars.
The largely Western-educated urban intelligentsia, although otherwise devout Muslims, are frequently resentful of the imposition of yet another policy by a heavy-handed military regime and its conservative supporters. Some mutter about ''this Islamic thing.'' And in the rural regions, where the large majority of the population lives, the residents are bent on continuing their own traditional customs, which sometimes blends Islam and other religions.
The risk seen by some observers, however, is the creation of another split in this state divided along ethnic, class, political, and regional lines.