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Islamization under Zia (1977-1988)

When Zia-ul-Haq took the power in his hands, there was a popular conception that every government paid only lip service to Islam and no sincere effort was ever made in this direction; the ruling class had rather resisted the enforcement of Islam. General Zia was aware of such feelings. So, he directed his attention to the taking of practical measure. Thus the following few points can be enumerated in this regard: creation of favorable atmosphere, reforms in information media, ban on obscene adds, contact with Ulama and Mashaikh, eradication of lawlessness, prayer in congregation, respect for Ramazan, better facilities for Hajj, reorientation of education policy, making of International Islamic University Islamabad, enforcement of Hudood ordinance, setting up of Sharia court, sharia bench of Supreme court, Qazi courts, progress towards Islamic economic system, National language and national dress, decisions about Qadianis, enforcement of Sharia ordinance 1988. They are further classified as under:


  1. The government of Zia created such an atmosphere where acting upon Islam was appreciated and opposing Islam was disliked and disapproved. In this regard his personal example played an important role. He himself acted upon Islamic injunctions, performed Umra annually, offered prayers regularly five times and his speeches or the lectures he used to deliver reflected his devotion to Islam.
  2. His first major step was that he introduced reforms in media as media played an important role in creating favorable public opinion for a particular system. The promotion of music and dancing was prohibited and instead reformatory programs were introduced. Azan was aired at prayers time. Hajj rites were broadcast live on television and Hajj sermon could also be heard on radio. For some time T.V programs were stopped altogether during Iftar time to provide calm environment to the Muslims to pray. In addition to that all obscene adds(advertisements) were banned either on television or newspaper.
  3. To enforce Islam effectively the support of Ulama and Mashaikh was necessary. In this regard, Zia concerned conventions of Ulama and Mashaikh to express their opinion freely and to criticize government if it is following the un-Islamic path.
  4. The Zia government tried to uphold the sanctity of chastity and privacy. In the beginning law and order was enforced to eradicate vulgarity and obscenity, but later the pace of these reforms could not be maintained. Hence, with the passage of time the T.V. censorship got relaxed and with the setting up of democratic government, terrorists and dacoits got active, and the propaganda of safety of ‘chadar’ and ‘chardivary’ lost its charm and credibility.
  5. Arrangements were made for attending the Zuhr prayers, in the government offices and schools. Nazimin-i-Salat was appointed who used to arrange the managements of the prayers, and urged the people to offer prayers. In the beginning the high government officers, Headmasters etc, sued to attend the congregation with punctuality but with the passage of time relaxation crept in and even Nazimine abandoned their task.
  6. To enforce the respect for Ramazan a special ordinance was released, according to which smoking, drinking, eating publically was prohibited and any one found doing that could be imprisoned for three months or could be fined for rupees 500. Media broadcasted special programs during Ramazan. All food markets were used to be shut down during Ramazan.
  7. Opportunity was provided to maximum people to perform Hajj. Khuddam-ul-Hujjaj were appointed for the guidance of Hajjis, their better residence in Saudi Arabia and medical facilities were given due consideration by the government.
  8. To inculcate Islamic thinking in students, general Zia ordered to review all textbooks and anything repugnant to Islam and to the ideology of Pakistan was deleted. Islamiat and Pakistan studies were made compulsory and were introduced in all sorts of educational institutions. The religious institutions were officially patronized and its degrees were recognized by government. Arabic was introduced as compulsory subject from sixth to eight Class.
  9. To do research in fiqh and principles of Sharia and some other disciplines, Islamic International University was set up in Islamabad.
  10. Four punishments were enforced by an ordinance, on 10, February 1979. Mentioned in Quran as “Had”. These punishments were cutting of hands for theft, hundred lashes and stoning for death for adultery and eighty lashes for drinking and for false accusation of adultery. Appeal against these punishments could only be made in Sharia court. However not even a single culprit was awarded these punishments.
  11. To enforce Islamic criminal law, Sharia court was set up which enjoyed the status of high court and it comprised of high court judges and some renowned Ulemas. If anyone claims a law to be repugnant to Islam, after hearing the court can announce it as null and void. However it heard cases concerning only to Islamic law.
  12. The sharia bench of the Supreme Court was the highest court for appeal regarding Islamic law and in the same court the principles of Islamic Law could be discussed and interpreted.
  13. Qazi courts were made to provide simple and speedy decisions, but due to the opposition of the lawyers, practical steps could not be taken in this direction.
  14. To protect people from the injustice of bureaucracy and the government an ombudsman was appointed in June 1981, who could convey the complaints of the people.
  15. Few steps were taken to model the economic system on Islamic lines. For instance, the enforcement of Zakat and Ushar system. Zakat is annually deducted from saving accounts and GDP funds when received, on the first Ramazan. Ushar was collected from those Landlords who’s yield exceeded 948 kg of wheat.

Institutions like Industrial Corporation of Pakistan, N.I.T. and House building finance corporation were made to eradicate usury they were organized on principle of ‘partnership’ instead of fixed interest. All banks opened profit and loss sharing accounts and all saving accounts were converted into P.L.S. accounts.

  1. To stop the dominance of western culture Zia ordered all the high officials to wear national dress president and prime minister also wore national dress on important functions. To promote national language Urdu, it was said that president and finance minister would address in Urdu. After few years all education would be in Urdu including the official correspondence, but no effective steps were taken in this regard.
  2. The Qadianies were prohibited from using Muslim names of persons, mosque etc. they were prohibited for all their practices to be named as Islamic. Under the president’s ordinance if they wanted to live in Pakistan, they will have to accept their non-Muslim identity.
  3. Imposition of Sharia was the main slogan of Zia government. When Zia got differences with Junejo, in 1988, he dissolved Junejo’s government and to satisfy the public minds he issued Sharia ordinance on June 15, 1988. According to it sharia was declared as the supreme law of the country and sharia courts were authorized to decide whether the laws in force are repugnant to Islam or not. Ulema were given the rights to appear before the court of law. Mufti was appointed by federal government to have his opinion on issues relating to sharia. An educational commission was proposed which was to recommend education system in accordance with the teachings of Islam. To promote Islamic values media was utilized and Islamic Ideological Council was proposed.

General Zia is a controversial figure in the history of Pakistan. He was opposed by the elite class of Pakistan, who were dissatisfied with his rapid Islamization of Pakistan. Political Ulema supported Zia but argued that Islamizing the country was not Zia’s Job instead he should hold elections and transfer power to the elected representatives who will then enforce Islam.

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