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Pakistan, the Hudood Ordinance and Women as Second Class Citizens


MG is a service officer and now a senior corporate advisor. A prolific writer with thousands of articles and publisher of 6 novels.


Turmoil in Pakistan

Pakistan is a theocratic state founded on the basis that Muslims of the sub-continent are a different ‘nation’ and thus deserve a separate homeland. The British were keen on the two-nation theory. They actively stoked the embers, forgetting that the subcontinent had accommodated both communities for over a1000 years. However the British accepted the demand of the fringe of the Muslim community and the state of Pakistan was carved out of India in 1947. The first Governor-General of Pakistan was Mohammed Ali Jinnah a man who claimed to be secular, yet espoused the cause of a separate Muslim state.

The Raison d’être for Pakistan was a Muslim state and from the beginning. There was a growing clamor for implementation of the Sharia, which was resisted by the educated elite and intellectuals. initially, Pakistan inherited all the laws framed by the British but a growing clamor by the religious ulema, who were in a minority soured the atmosphere.

Bhutto and General Zia

The first years after the creation of Pakistan the laws enacted by the British were adopted by Pakistan. The advent of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972 was a watershed in Pakistan politics. Bhutto for all his qualities was a poor leader and it was no surprise that he was overthrown in a military coup in 1977 by General Zia-ul-Haq. But before that, he had framed a constitution which had elements of equality for all. This Constitution has remained to this day though many of its provisions have been watered down. A big hand in this was that of General Zia Ul-Haq who had no political base and he thought it best to continue to remain in power by pandering to the extremist ulema and the mullahs.

General Zia had a very little mass following and wished to get rid of Bhutto who had some standing among the masses. He subsequently got Bhutto hanged on a charge of conspiracy to murder a political opponent. But despite the exit of Bhutto, the General felt insecure. He, hit on a novel idea to win the support of the hard-line Islamic mullahs and groups by enacting an ordinance known as the Hudood ordinance.

The Hudood Ordinance

This ordinance passed certain laws with regard to women and took away rape and allied crimes outside the purview of the Pakistan Penal code and replaced them with the Sharia. This pleased the hard-line Muslim elements and Zia got a fresh lease on life.

The passage of the Hudood ordinance was an anti-woman law. It made the application of the Sharia mandatory in the case of rape. It also brought to the fore the Islamic view of jurisprudence which specifies that the evidence of a woman is half of a man. Thus to corroborate an act a single woman is not enough but must be evidenced by 2 women. The repercussions of this were ominous as two women need to testify to corroborate an event like a rape. Since rape is usually done in secret the evidence of a woman that she had been raped by a man could not stand in a Sharia court.

Applicability of Sharia on Rape

Another draconian interpretation that was accepted based on the Sharia is that for any crime (including rape) the requirement of 4 witnesses is mandatory. The result of this is that it is impossible to secure a conviction of a rapist for the simple reason

a) Woman’s evidence that she is raped is not admissible.

b) As rape is generally carried out in secrecy, the requirement of 4 witnesses as per the Shariat to corroborate the crime is impossible.


Rights of Women

In real terms, a rapist could not be convicted. There was a negative fall out of this ordinance. In case a woman could not prove a rape charge she was open to being charged with adultery (Zinna) as per the Sharia as she had consummated sex outside marriage. The punishment for Zinna in the Sharia is death by stoning.

The Hudood ordinance thus took away the rights of women and the world sat and watched. In Pakistan, many NGO’s led by human rights activist Asma Jahangir( She is no more, bless her) has campaigned against this law, but the law stands.

Last Word

The Hudood ordinance has had its effect and many Pakistani women were jailedl for claiming to be raped as they cannot prove rape as per the tenets of the Sharia. Most have been charged with Zinna. General Haq has gone, assassinated in an air crash but this law is not repealed. In Pakistan, there is little discussion about this ordinance, and nobody dares to talk about it as it will clash with the hard-line religious lobby.

In 2006, then president Parvez Mushraff proposed reform of the ordinance. On November 15, 2006, the "Protection of Women( Criminal Laws Amendment Act)was passed. It allowed rape to be prosecutable under civil law. The bill was ratified by the Senate on 23 November 2006, This was a step forward but the original ordinance is not repealed. Another act was passed in 2016 for the protection of Women and honor killings. A good law but again I wonder why the Hudood ordinance is not repealed. Who will answer that question?


MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 11, 2021:

Thank you Ginger for appreciating this post.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on March 11, 2021:

Nasreen I presume you are from Pakistan and am thankful for your comment. A concerted move from all is required. Hudood Ordinance must be repealed.

Nasreen on March 11, 2021:

Thank you for writing this, there is hardly anybody in Pakistan who has the courage to bring out these points even the so called womens lib movement is talking all nonsense. It is terrible in frontier and even in Punjab. All I can say is I shudder.

Ginger Ruffles on August 08, 2012:

Thank you for writing this. It's an extremely helpful and informative hub!

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on August 01, 2012:

Thanks, I just shared this. I hope more read this. This hub is important.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on August 01, 2012:

Yes pleease , you are welcome

Michele Travis from U.S.A. Ohio on August 01, 2012:

Thank you for this hub. More people need to be aware of this, because Sharia law has started to come to the United States and Sharia law is against women. Sharia law is against women and women are the only ones who can be punished for it. Your hubs have so much information in them. May I SHARE this hub?

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