Hudood Ordinance was one in a series of five separate laws promulgated by the martial law government of erstwhile dictator Gen. Zi(n)a ul Haque in 1979, in Pakistan, to impose his distorted Islam-view on a hapless nation. The full name of this ordinance is The Offence of Zina (Enforcement Of Hudood) Ordinance, 1979.
This particular ordinance starts off criminalizing extra-marital sex. The onus is on a woman rape victim to provide four ‘pious’ Muslim male witnesses to the rape.
(Digression: forget your religion and nationality, just tell me how many times you have been in a foursome group and have witnessed a rape in progress?)
Imagine the onerous task facing a rape victim who is already suffering from trauma. No wonder 80% of the women according to some estimates languishing in Pakistani jails are a victim of this law.
For the apprehended rapist it is easier to accuse the victim of rape of consensual sex and get away from the more serious rape charge.
The civilian governments of former Prime Ministers Nawaz Shareeef and Benazir Bhutto set up two Commissions to ‘investigate’ the excesses of Zi(n)a’s Hudood Ordinance. Both Commissions recommended disbanding it. Both governments did not carry through the recommendations.
In late 2001, en route to Karachi, Geo TV CEO Mir Ibrahim Rahman wrote a memorandum to himself putting down his thoughts on why he left his investment banker’s job at Goldman Sachs and what he hoped to achieve in Pakistan.
His grandfather and father Mir Khalil ur Rehman and Mir Shakil ur Rahman founded the Jang Group of newspapers and were well known media moguls in Pakistan. In a sense it was, as if ordained, that the grandson would join the family empire. At 28, he is one of the youngest CEOs to head a major TV channel anywhere.
Geo was launched on August 14, 2002. On every anniversary, Mir Ibrahim takes out the memo he wrote on board that plane and measures the progress he has made.
One of the goals he wrote about in that memo dealt with the Hudood Ordinance. With the launch of Zara Souchiye (‘Think’ in Urdu) Geo TV is launching a nationwide campaign to initiate a debate over the Hudood Ordinance.
GEO has developed this entire initiative in house without any pressure or influence from any other agency. No support has been taken from the Government of Pakistan, non- governmental organizations, any political party or any other local or foreign agency or government. The initiative has been researched, designed, developed and implemented thoroughly by GEO’s own research and production team. The members of this team are full time employees of the channel without any association to any social or political organization, but rather, with a conscience of Geo Aur Geenay Do (‘Live and Let Live’).
It appears as a well planned and executed nation-wide campaign designed to develop a consensus without antagonizing the entrenched ‘religious stakeholders’ and their orthodox and conservative supporters. Mir Ibrahim told me:
Conservatives didn’t feel as threatened by GEO’s approach of not involving any NGO’s and even conspicuously any women in the entire campaign, and only seeking opinion from scholars themselves from each school of thought. The campaign slogan in fact is ”No Debate on Hadood-Allah! Is the Hadood Ordinance Islamic?” Which basically makes a clear distinction between Had laws mentioned in the Koran (which aren’t debatable and thus not challenged) and the interpretation that man has done in the Ordinance (can be challenged and measured against Islam).
As a first step Geo interviewed twenty six ‘diverse and senior’ religious scholars and asked them, The Hudood laws are presented as divine laws, which cannot be touched. Do you agree?
The “response from all 26 religious stakeholders agreed that the law was not only man-made but is open to change and improvements.”
Geo has ‘opened up the floor for debate,’ and its most popular programs such as Pachas Minute, Alif, Jawabdeh and Capital Talk will be focussing on Hudood Ordinance in the coming season.
By involving open and public discussion of a politicized-religious issue Geo is doing a valuable service to the Muslims of Pakistan, in particular the affected women. The Geo campaign Zara Souchiye hopes to deliver what eluded the inept and corrupt civilian governments of Nawaz-Shareef and Benazir-Bhutto. A malady shared equally by the present Aziz Administration as well. Good luck and Go Geo.