The Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Ordinance, 2015 was promulgated by the government of Punjab as part of the National Action Plan to curb and counter terrorist activities that have long been a threat to the citizens of Pakistan. While it is highly appreciable that the government has come to the forefront to tackle the issue of terrorism across the country it must, at the same time, also be determined that whether such steps in fact violate the core provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan especially Articles 2-A and 227?
Before scrutinizing the Ordinance broadly it is important to shed light on the foregoing Articles of the Constitution. Article 2-A makes the Objectives Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution so that it becomes fully enforceable in the national courts. It puts the Islamic law being the divine law on a higher pedestal to any other law and contemplates about the citizens of Pakistan to be governed by the said divine law i.e. the Muslims shall be fully free to adopt and apply their religious law whereas the non-Muslims shall have the right to be governed according to their own religious laws. Article 227 states “All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah… and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions.” When these articles are read together there will be left no room to believe that there is some other grundnorm (not strictly applying in Kelsenian terms) of the country of Pakistan than Islamic law. Islamic law has been recognized by the constitution as the supreme law of the land.
Coming back to the Ordinance, surface reading of it does not reveals its true meaning. However, a careful study of the same reveals the fact that it has place a bar on the use of certain sound systems with respect to Azaan (call or invitation to prayer) etc. without any exception (see Section 4(2)(a) of the Ordinance). Here a question may well be asked. What possible nuisance, disorder, indecency or incitement to terrorism can be created by any person in terms of uttering Azaan to the public? The utterance of Azaan endorsed by the last and final Prophet from God in the early years of his migration to Madinah formed a cornerstone to five daily prayers till today. Since then, this specific practice by the Muslims in different parts of the world is religiously been carried out and to the best of our knowledge has not been banned in any part of the Muslim country as it ought not to be.
This deliberate attempt of penalizing certain activities by the government focuses primarily on the mosques and worship places, which is discriminatory in nature and not general in any sense. This fact can be seen, observed and understood clearly on the careful reading of Section 5 of the Ordinance which speaks of inspection of sound systems of ‘every place of worship’ alone as if only places of worship in this province of the country are an immediate threat to its people. Over 90% of the accused caught without assigning any reason, are religious clerics belonging to different schools of thought which is sufficient evidence to believe in the fact that the Ordinance is made in haste, without proper application of mind, targeting a particular group of the society and with ulterior motives. Moreover, no proper procedure was followed or mentioned in the Ordinance, no prior request was made, no notice or warning given by the police to whom the law relates, in order to be cautious in using the loudspeaker or the amplifier. In fact it took many by surprise as the said law and the punishment it entails (see Section 6) was alien to the enforcers and the violators when the direction was given by the government.
While keeping such disappointing attitude and unworkable method employed by the law enforcement authorities in mind we, as students of law nay the believers in the very philosophy and spirit of law (which is to stand for justice for the oppressed by all means) do not accept the rationality behind promulgating the Ordinance and regard it as bad, unconstitutional and un-Islamic. As citizens of Pakistan our duty is only to assist and cooperate with the state and its departments as far as their actions are legitimate, just and for the protection and security of our country. The rest should be condemned!
The writers are law graduates from the University of London and are partners and legal advisers at Danishwar Advocates| Advisers, Lahore.