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Pakistan: Ordinance XX and XXI explained

Status of Ordinance XX and XXI in 2020

10 years after Ahmadis were declared non-Muslim in a constitutional amendment by the Pakistan National Assembly under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, President General Ziaul Haq promulgated Ordinance XX which provides for prison terms of up to three years or unlimited fines for any member of the Ahmadi, Lahori, or Quadiani faith who in any way poses as a Muslim or refers to himself as a Muslim.

Ordinance XX (20) is a legal ordinance of the Government of Pakistan that was promulgated on 26 April 1984 and is meant to prohibit the practice of Islam and the usage of Islamic terms and titles for the Ahmadiyya Community.

Ordinance XXI

Ordinance XXI of 1991 promulgated by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on 7 July 1991 amended the Pakistan Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure to increase the maximum punishment for outraging the religious feelings of any group from two years to ten years. Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code now reads: “295-A Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs: Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of any class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.”
Ordinances in Pakistan remain in force for a period of 120 days and then lapse unless they are approved by parliament and thereby made part of the regular legal system. At the end of August 1991 the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on the Interior decided to recommend to parliament the adoption of Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Bill, 1991, which provides for the increase of the maximum punishment for the criminal offence of offending the religious feeling of any class. It is highly likely to be adopted in the next parliamentary session.

The amendments of the Pakistan Penal Code introduced in 1991 are applicable to anyone defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammad or outraging the religious feelings of certain groups.

President can issue ordinance when one of the houses of the Parliament is not in session. The maximum validity of an ordinance is 6 months and 6 weeks. An ordinance will expire after 6 weeks once both houses of the Parliament are in session. A constitutional amendment cannot be made through ordinance route.

The National Assembly can extend the ordinance if need be. Status of Ordinance XX and XXI is not known.

Article 89 of the Constitution of Pakistan authorises that “the President may, except when the Senate or National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an ordinance as the circumstances may require”. Ordinances in Pakistan are considered handy tools to bypass parliament.

More than 2,000 ordinances were promulgated since the time of creation of Pakistan. till January 2020, according to a report in Express Tribune.

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