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Zina Laws in Pakistan


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Political and Social Context of Zina Laws
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Political and Social Context of Zina Laws

Pakistan was created through a division of British colonial India into the nations states of India and Pakistan. Those demanding the creation of Pakistan, including Mohammad Ali Jinnah the chief promoter of the demand for Pakistan, declared themselves to be secularists. Yet the very basis of the demand for the country was a two nation theory, hindu and muslim. This contradiction has frequently been used by Pakistani politicians to advance their own agendas. In affect they have used the rhetoric of religion for their own benefit.

General Zia-ul-Haq who overthrew the democratically elected prime minister of Pakistan in 1977 also used religion for his own needs. He headed a marshal law regime and did not have a political mandate So in 1979 he embarked on a program of Islamization which helped him to secure that legitimacy. The Hadood Ordinances of which the Zina Laws form a part are a process of this Islamization.

The zina laws, indeed the entire Hadood Ordinances seek to define and reinforce the notion of a "pure and chaste" Pakistani citizen. The material reality of the laws are quite different in a society where police corruption and violence go unpunished, male violence against women has no legal sanction, and the majority of the population is increasingly improvished. The legal system is so backlogged that often incarcerated persons waiting trial are held longer than the sentence they would receive if convicted. The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry of Women (1977) charged that the Zina Laws are subject to widespread misuse, with 95% of the women accused of zina being found innocent either in the court of first instance or on appeal.