Swat Sharia regulation ambiguous and vague: Pakistani paper

Islamabad, April 20 (Inditop) The bill passed by Pakistan’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to impose Sharia laws in Swat and other parts of the country’s restive northwest “lacks all the essential qualities of good legislation”, an article in a leading English daily said Monday.

A reading of the regulation’s text “indicates that members of our parliament hurriedly passed the resolution without exerting their right of reading and carefully studying several provisions of the regulation”, the article in Dawn said.

“The regulation lacks all the essential qualities of good legislation: clarity, accuracy and constitutionality. Ambiguity and vagueness ruin the very purpose of the legislation and are the two qualities that one may find floating on the surface of this law,” it maintained.

Noting that no one could deny the “enormously serious political impact” that the Sharia regulation will have, the article lamented: “Our major political parties bury their heads in the sand when a meteorite hits our political landscape and jolts our whole constitutional infrastructure.”

Alongside its adverse effects on the overall governance of the North West Frontier Province, the Nizam-i-Adl Sharia regulation “will have widespread legal repercussions”, it maintained.

Some of these repercussions are already evident.

On Sunday, Taliban-linked radical cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammed said Pakistan’s existing judicial system was unIslamic and vowed to impose Sharia across the country.

Sufi Mohammed, who heads the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM), termed judges, lawyers and pro-democracy clerics of Pakistan as “rebels”.

He also set a Thursday deadline for establishing appeals courts in the Malakand division of the NWFP where verdicts handed down by the Sharia courts could be contested.

The cleric had brokered the controversial Feb 16 peace deal with the NWFP government to impose Sharia laws in Malakand in return for the Taliban laying down their arms. The National Assembly ratified the accord April 13 with President Asif Ali Zardari signing it into law the same night.

The regulation “makes not only various constitutional provisions redundant but also marginalises the role of constitutional bodies, for instance, the Islamic Ideology Council, and even parliament”, the article noted.

It also pointed out that when late military dictator Ziaul Haq amended the constitution and established the Federal Sharia Court (FSC) and granted it the power to examine laws on the touchstone of the Quran, the FSC “was bound to refer the matter to the president to make amendments in case the court found any law or its provision repugnant to the injunctions of Islam”.

“The FSC is not empowered to make law and proclaim that this law will now be applicable. In the absence of such a provision, when qazis will declare any law unIslamic, they will also assert what the Islamic law is. Then, their version of Islamic law will begin to apply.

“To pass on this burden of legislation to qazis is delegating their responsibility to individuals who will enforce their personal interpretation of Sharia on others,” the article contended.

Thus, it was “beyond comprehension” as to how and on what basis the parliament “can pass on its role of legislation to another body of the state, more so when the authority is passed to individuals, who have neither technical education nor the experience of dispensation of justice, keeping in view the fundamental human rights enshrined in our constitution”, the article maintained.

“It was the function of parliament to legislate laws which do not violate the injunctions of Islam and treaties Pakistan is a signatory to. To delegate such an authority to qazis who enjoy ample discretionary powers will espouse sectarian interpretations of Islamic law and dispense injustice.

“It is a dangerous trend that will influence the members of the judiciary all over Pakistan and they will begin to legislate what they think is based on the �true’ interpretation of Islamic injunctions,” the article said.