Removing the only good thing Zia-ul Haq added to the Constitution!

Yasser Latif Hamdani at PTH has pointed out a terrible omission in the 18th Amendment Bill [PDF]. If you look on page 93 of the document, you can see that Article 91 is being amended back to resemble its pre-1985 status.

The current version of article 91(2) is:

(2) The President shall in his discretion appoint from amongst the members of the National Assembly a Prime Minister who, in his opinion, is most likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly.

The new version of Article 91, proposed in the 18th Amendment Bill contains Article 91(3) which is:

(3) After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be Prime Minister

So as you can see, the only good thing Zia ever changed about the constitution is being changed back and Pakistan will once again become a country in which non-Muslims are barred from the office of both the President and the Prime Minister. Either this is an error of omission, or an act of cowardice. In either case, it’s a huge loss for minority rights in Pakistan.

20 responses to “Removing the only good thing Zia-ul Haq added to the Constitution!

  1. My question is: Was ever Pakistan considerate enough to uphold minority rights? Do minority rights exist in Pakistan?

  2. Rabia

    poonam, I agree with you – the way that these kind of changes are just casually made without any discussion shows the value that the lawmakers give to minority rights. It’s truly sad.

  3. takhalus

    Fair point, but there are progressive steps in the 18th amendment, it’s kept joint electorate, womens seats set up 4 seats for religious minorities in the senate. If you check the reiteration notes and comments by JUI there was a push to Islamize the amendment far more.

  4. grandtrunkroad

    agreed, takhalus. but surely a step backward like this should at least be discussed and they should at least have to explain it. hopefully someone in the media will pick it up although I’m not holding my breath.

  5. grandtrunkroad

    btw, regarding recommendations of further islamization – it’s really interesting reading the JI’s reiteration notes that they hardly had any comments about islamization at all. it was only JUI and even JUI had all this other stuff about provincial autonomy and judicial appointments. it’s possible that the notes of reiteration don’t reflect the tone of the discussiion, but it’s interesting to me how little mention of islamization there is.

    i guess the argument can be made that since all the major demands regarding islamization have basically been granted, there isn’t too much to discuss anymore.

  6. takhalus

    I agree it’s an important debate to be had but it’s not the be all and end all ..when one pushes through a radical overhaul expect messy compromise (a la Obamacare) but when one is pushing through ones own agenda you don’t seek consensus. Consider the womens rights bills and blasphemy reforms as examples of that..

    I agree with you about the Islamization debate that’s probably the argument that Rabbani used. Although credit to their representatives they behaved with some political acumen and didn’t throw a last minute tantrum like the PML-N

  7. Anoop

    All parties in Pakistan are non-secular. It only worth noting the degree of non-secular-ness.

    It speaks volume when you realize a man like Manmohan Singh,India’s PM, a scholarly man, cannot become the Prime Minister of Pakistan ever, coming from a Sikh, more importantly, a non-Muslim backgroud.

  8. takhalus

    Anoop religious based states perceive ethnicity as a key problem, while secular states often struggle with religion. So Pakistan’s biggest problem is reconciling it’s ethnicity with the imposed conformity of what a state defined Muslim is..while India struggles to reconcile overt expressions of religion with the state.

  9. Sadia Hussain

    It is ironic that the 18th amendment could not remove the religious indoctrination of religion in the constitution that is why article 62 and 63 remained untouched, moreover the condition of being a Muslim for premiership is discriminatory to the minorities in Pakistan.

  10. Sher Zaman

    Well, this amendment is not at all in favor of the minorities living in Pakistan, and anyone who is by all means suitable for the post will never be allowed to compete for the seat of the prime minister. Minorities already feel threatened in this country, especially when a band of terrorists is against their own Muslim brothers. It is expected from the government that they should show a more secular attitude towards the minorities, and should be given equal opportunities in all walks of life.

  11. takhalus

    Hmm even secular states like Syria have a law which makes it compulsory for a Muslim to be head of state

  12. grandtrunkroad

    takhalus, there was a great deal of dispute between the brotherhood and hafez al assad over the islamic clauses in the syrian constitution in the early 70s. imo the insertion of the muslim head of state stipulation was part of assad’s negotiation process which enabled him to remove the requirement for islam to be the state religion

  13. stuka

    IMO this is an irrelevant debate more suited for Ivory Tower Academia than real world application. Let Pakistan do a better job of providing for it’s majority before worrying about the status of minorities aspiring to head of state positions. It is not as is the vast majority of Sunni Muslims of Punjabi ethnicity are flourishing in Pakistan while taking resources away from others. If anything, a tiny elite which is surprisingly diverse (Pak Army General Cadre) has suucessfully put it’s foot on the throat of Pakistani democracy and particpatory politics and has garnered the lion’s share of national resources for institutional benefit.

    Regardless of this minor drawback, the constitutional amendments are a huge deal. Focus should now be on the Permanent Establishment’s attempt to once again throttle democracy by way of a judicial dictatorship. I am sure minorities share a large number of needs and wants with the majority and would thus only benefit from (hopefully) a more responsive state. If there are a few who are truly disappointed at this opportunity being taken away from them, I am sure there are myriad other ways to serve your country.

  14. grandtrunkroad

    stuka, I (respectfully 🙂 ) completely disagree with you. The tone of the constitution has a direct impact on the shape of society. every discriminatory clause inserted into the constitution has a ripple effect that fundamentally alters the shape of society.

    as an example, please see the real world impact of the 2nd amendment (declaring Ahmadis as non-muslims):

    furthermore, if you think that even that is inconsequential and “academic” then consider that the anti-ahmadi constitutional amendments and the victory that that was seen as by the deobandi ulema was directly related to the rise of the anti-shia groups like sipah-e-sahaba. in many cases, such as haq nawaz jhangvi there was simply a transfer of resources and aims once their victory was achieved against the ahmadis to anti-shia and now anti-barelvi.

    every victory achieved by the rightists in pakistan’s constitution has a direct impact on events on the ground. the sad thing in pakistan is that liberals belonging to the majority don’t understand this issue. They think that because they are not directly impacted by the discriminatory aspects of constitutional islamization, they will be fine and there are more important issues to concern themselves about. they don’t make the connection between the nature of the constitution and the state of society.

  15. stuka


    I have always maintained that the nature of an “Islamic society” has more of a direct bearing on the rights and freedoms that Muslims enjoy, as opposed to Minorities in Islamic countries. It is interesting to see that even the Taliban, when ruling Afghanistan, did not indulge in wholesale massacres of Hindus and Sikhs whereas it did indulge in wholesale massacres of Shia Hazaras and even Sunni of Non Pakhtoon stock. Hindu and Sikh minorities had a relatively benign experience where at most they had to wear a yellow cloth so they would not be mistaken as Muslims by the Vice and Virtue Boys.

    The point is – debate on the nature of society in an Islamic country is an intra-Muslim affair. All sides pay lip service to Minority rights, from Liberal to Islamist. Few actually provide minority rights because they do not also provide Majority rights. If the debate is about the nature of society, then let Muslims who are disposed towards individual freedom and liberty fight for those rights for all. Fight for the right to drink alcohol as you please and go for a buffet lunch during Ramzaan and you will also get a society in which a Non Muslim can be a President without the express need for stating so. Fighting for the right to be given to a Non Muslim on paper will not mean anything but tokenism as a best case scenario.

  16. Anonymous


    “Hmm even secular states like Syria have a law which makes it compulsory for a Muslim to be head of state”

    holy mohammed! do yourself a favor and look up the word secular


    “If there are a few who are truly disappointed at this opportunity being taken away from them, I am sure there are myriad other ways to serve your country.”

    exactly what I’ve been saying, religious minorities already have plenty of ways to serve their muslim masters, so what else do they need? “rights?” please.


    “Hindu and Sikh minorities had a relatively benign experience where at most they had to wear a yellow cloth so they would not be mistaken as Muslims by the Vice and Virtue Boys.”

    yes, they were forced to wear a public symbol of their religion entirely *for their own advantage*

    btw france wants to ban burqas and other islamic shit, but in honor of this brilliant muslim innovation on rights protection, I think we should just force muslim women to walk around naked. you see, that would protect them. what an idea, thank you!

  17. takhalus

    Anonymous: Read up on Syrias history and it’s treatment of Islamists and get back to me..the Church of England is the recognised Church of Britain, and you can’t have a Catholic Monarch..but not many would say Britain is a religious state.

  18. stuka

    Was my suggestion to anonymous removed?

  19. rights to minorities and especially women should be discussed upon. If Pakistanis can go to western countries and live life at their best and enjoy all the rights the citizens have then why cant we do the same here. Why do really we have to hate every1?? To me we are a nation that discriminate the most. We have problems with all sects and religion except our own identity.

  20. Tilsim

    Its frankly very short sighted to formally disenfranchise a very significant minority from holding the highest public office. Why should they be treated as lesser citizens? Until us Muslims realise that we can’t demand rights in the West that we are not willing to give to non-Muslims in Muslim countries then we are going no where. Shame on the people who think this way. Very disappointed to read of this change in the 18th amendment.

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