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ICC Note:

Leaders from Pakistan’s religious minorities have voiced their support for the abolition of a controversial Islamic Council in Pakistan’s government used to decide whether laws are in line with Islamic ideology. The existence of the council shows the second class status of religious minorities in Pakistan. Historically, the council has been criticized for its recommendations supporting child marriage and the country’s blasphemy laws. Would the abolition of this council be a step in the right direction for religious freedom in Pakistan? 

1/13/2016 Pakistan (UCAN) – Minority religious leaders in Pakistan have put their weight behind a lawmaker objecting to the constitutional status of an official body of Islamic clerics known for its controversial recommendations regarding blasphemy laws, child marriage and rape.

Sen. Farhatullah Babar, a leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party questioned in parliament the legal and constitutional status of the Council of Islamic Ideology for its “controversial pronouncements.”

The council is a constitutional body that advises the legislature whether or not a certain law is in line with Islam.

Father Abid Habib of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superiors lauded the lawmaker for his brave stance.

“The council was simply founded to impose religious beliefs and propagate the system of the majority. These outdated ulemas are only misleading the whole nation,” he said.

“Pakistan’s founder did not want this and I support the senator for bringing this up,” he added.

Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah when talking to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947 stressed that freedom of worship was an essential feature of the country and that the “the business of the state” was distinct from “religion.”

Saleem-ud-din, the Ahmadi community spokesman, said neither parliament nor any council should interfere with people’s religious belief and that there must be no state authority to interpret Islam. “Religion is a personal thing,” he said.

In Pakistan, it is a crime for the Ahmadis to publicly preach or claim they are Muslim.

Babar told parliament that the council had rejected a draft bill for establishing homes for the elderly because it went against the norms and traditions of society. The same council had declared that DNA test results were unacceptable as primary evidence in cases of rape.

The council also had objected to discourage the misuse of blasphemy laws and had decreed that current state laws forbidding child marriage were un-Islamic.

“Recommendations such as these demonstrate how dangerously conservative and out of touch with the times” the council is, Babar said.

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