Islamabad (AsiaNews) A Pakistani lawyer has gone to the Federal Shariat Court to challenge several provisions in the Hudood Ordinances as "repugnant to Islamic injunctions and defaming Islam at the national and international level".
Hudood Ordinances, which are inspired by Islam, were adopted in 1979 under General Zia ul-Haq's military regime. Divided in four parts, they regulate property, adultery and religious bans. They do not differentiate rape from adultery.
The decision to challenge the ordinances comes from M. Aslam Khaki, a jury-consultant and an advocate of the Supreme Court, who has specifically identified nine provisions concerning the offence of Zina (pre- and extramarital sex), i.e. adultery, as being against the spirit of Islam.
Mr Khaki's request to the federal judges includes amendments to the provisions in question so that they can conform to the teachings of Islam.
In his petition, he points out that the nine provisions are already covered by the Taazirat, or Pakistani Penal Code, and therefore should not come under the Hudood ordinances.
Furthermore, since they pertain to the penal law, "they are man-made and not divine in nature and so should be the punishments. Instead, there has been an attempt to turn violations of man-made law into violations of divine law."
This is especially relevant since the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has ordered courts to settle cases filed under the Zina Offence provisions within three months, reported an English daily reported today. The newspaper also said that a recent report concluded that there were 200,000 Hudood cases pending before the courts.
In fact, according to the Federal Shariat Court, the Lahore Registry alone had about pending 1,400 cases. The effect is that the accused are unjustly detained waiting trial. And most of them are women.
This happens because under Hudood rules, a woman must have four male Muslim witnesses present at her rape to prove her case. All four must have an unblemished police record and be of unsullied reputation for their words to be accepted. Short of this, the victim is liable to be accused of adultery and sentenced to time in jail or to death by stoning.
Many of Pakistan's Islamic organisations have not welcomed the petition. According to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal or MMA, a six Islamic parties' alliance, "it is a distortion by the press" of the view of mufti Muneebur Rehman launched "to please Western countries".
Speaking to AsiaNews Shahbaz Bhatti, chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, said that the Hudood Ordinances are a draconian element in Pakistani Law, especially for women and religious minorities.
"This is very unfair," he said, "since minorities are punished under this law but cannot be assisted by non-Muslim lawyers".
"We do not want the law amended; we want it entirely abolished. Short of that we do not want it to be applied against minorities."