There is a council of Islamic ideology in Pakistan that advises government and legislative bodies on laws that are repugnant to Islam. Maulana Sherani, a rural maulvi from Baluchistan, without any academic credentials, has been appointed the chairman of the council replacing Dr. Khalid Masud, a PhD from Mcgill University. Insani Huqooq Ittehad (Human rights alliance), a body consisting of 30 NGOs demanded that the decision to appoint Maulana Sherani must be repealed because it contravenes the criterion laid out for such appointment.
But the nomination of Sherani to please JUI(F), a belligerent ally, for the passage of budget from the current session of parliament raises concerns. Prime Minister ZA Bhutto strengthened his government by declaring Ahmedis as non-Muslims and delivered Pakistan to fundamentalists.
Islamic Ideology Council was instituted by the 1962 constitution. It has been presided by academics and ex-judges of superior courts. Human-rights organizations view the appointment of a rural maulvi without proper education as a reversal to the dark days of extreme Islamism under Zia-ul-Haq. The presidency of the organization by a PhD could not become a guarantee against orthodoxy and religious extremism.
Maulana Sherani criticized the passage of a bill on harassment of women and walked out of the senate. The fight to purge the constitution of Pakistan from discrimination against women and minorities is still in its initial stage. Council’s recommendations on a woman’s right to divorce were sharply criticized by traditionalists. In 2007, the council recommended modification of hudood laws allowing exemption for victims of rape from the charge of adultery.
Recommendations of the council from earlier years include one that suggests erasure of human image from rupee bills. Prohibiting a woman from marrying without approval of a male sponsor (wali), banning women from appearing in ads or songs to banning co-education, the council of Islamic ideology , Federal Shariat Court and ministry of religious affairs have provided enough material to keep Pakistanis embroiled in futile controversy and played their role in perpetuating ignorance.
Khaled Ahmed, in his column published in Friday Times (January 11 to 17, 2002) wrote, “Most people think that extremism comes out of a misinterpretation of Islam. This is wrong. Extremism and violence occur when people do not accept what the Islamists regard as the irreducible crux of Islam in the shape of shariah.” Chopping hands and heads to prohibiting music, dance, insurance and banking, they are all held as the righteous way of sharia.
Instead of a council for rational investigation and enquiry, Pakistanis are stuck with the Council for Islamic ideology and Shariat court. Concern of human rights activists on Maulana Sherani’s headship of the council must be appreciated and shared by law-abiding, conscientious citizens.