Outrage Against Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam Bill

The Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-islam bill was passed by the Punjab Assembly on July 22. However, after being passed in the provincial assembly, a bill has to be approved by the governor to become law. Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar was reluctant to sign the controversial bill saying that the bill is a sensitive topic and will only be signed after a consensus is reached on it. As the governor is not signing it, Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam bill will be sent back to the assembly where a consensus can be reached.

Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar

Details about Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam bill

The bill has caused outrage among concerned parties and could lead to members of the government retracting their support. Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz in a statement on Monday said that the PTI government would not support any legislation that would cause sectarian divide in the country.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry has been vocal about his disapproval of the bill from early on. He tweeted on Sunday, “An environment has been created in the Parliament, particularly in the Punjab Assembly, where every [other] member comes up with a motion on a daily basis warning that Islam will be in danger if it is not passed. This is a dangerous trend and it will plunge us deep into sectarianism and religious extremism.”

Earlier he tweeted about his general disapproval of the recent trend of banning and censure, “Islam in Pakistan is neither facing any danger from TikTok nor from books. We are facing a danger because of the division on the basis of sectarianism and extremism. Another tweet was an admonishment to those that are stoking the fire of sectarian conflict, “Those living in palaces must exercise caution and do not fan the fire that burn themselves.”

The Shia Muslim group, Masjlis Wahdat Muslemin (MWM), warned that they would withdraw political and electoral support from all those that back the bill. Another group, Shia Ulema Council (SUC) expressed their reservations and forewarned heightened conflict and protests with Muharram approaching soon.

The President of the Shia Ulema Council outfit in Punjab, Allama Sibtain Haider, on behalf of SUC chief Allama Sajid Ali Naqvi and other central leaders, while on call, talked to Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who spearheaded the bill, expressing the reservations that the Shia community had concerning it.

Patron-in-Chief of Supreme Shia Ulema Board Quaid-e-Millat Jafaria Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosavi, in opposition to the bill,00 announced a day of peaceful protest that will be observed throughout the country this Friday (July 31). He made a statement saying that “We will not shy away from taking any big step to save the foundations of the religion and the motherland,” and that “this vicious bill be withdrawn forthwith.”

While addressing the office-bearers of Tehreek Nafaz Fiqh-e-Jafariya Punjab who called on him, he also brought notice to the Article 227 whereby the interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah by any sect will be respected.

National Party’s President for the Punjab region, Ayub Malik, was also of the view that bill would encourage sectarian conflict, especially in the largest province of the country with a history of marginalization of minorities. He likened such policies to that of General Zia-ul-Haq who he said had already damaged the vision that Jinnah had of Pakistan, “Now with this new law, the concept of Jinnah’s Pakistan has been pushed towards the verge of complete destruction, paving the way for more hatred against minorities and other sections of society.”

Ayub Malik also brought into question the necessity of such a law as Islamic injunctions of 1973 Constitution along with Section 505(2) of the PPC and Section 8 of the Anti-Terrorism Act already penalize racial and sectarian hatred.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also voiced its concern and likened the bill “to the antiquated practice of ‘book-burning’”. The Women Democratic Front (WDM) enjoined the governor not to sign the bill and criticized parties that claim to fight for the rights of minorities while supporting the bill. WDM condemned the bill in a statement saying that, “It is no secret that religious, intellectual, academic and political freedoms are under attack in Pakistan. Efforts to silence academics, journalists and political workers through force have been increasing while rightwing forces are making it harder for non-Muslim Pakistanis to practice their religion freely.

Meanwhile, Law Minister Raja Basharat is in support of the Tahaffuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam bill and believes it is a step forward to the Prime Minister’s “vision of Riyast-e-Madina”. Members of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) also came out in support of the bill and criticized Fawad Chaudhry for his opposition. MPA Muavia Azam took a copy if the bill to the grave of his father, Azam Tariq, a former leader of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP).

About Sarmad Tariq

A self-professed "jack of all trades, master of none" with degrees in Computer Science and English Literature and a love for writing poetry that he seldom shares on social media.

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